By Hilary White

MELBOURNE, Australia, September 9, 2008 ( – Today’s debate in the Victoria Parliament over proposals to loosen abortion restrictions in the state was an emotional debate, with one pro-abortion MP breaking down into tears at one point.

Pro-abortion state cabinet minister Jacinta Allan broke down while she told parliament of “extreme” and “abusive” phone calls she had received from some constituents opposed to abortion.

Sports Minister James Merlino, who is opposed to the bill, expressed his concern that Victoria was attracting abortion-seekers from around the country under the current laws. “There’s nothing in this bill to stop that,” he said. “We are already seeing people, from WA for example, coming to Victoria, and I think that will increase.”

He rejected the claim of Premier Brumby that removing abortion from the Crimes Act would result in no increase in the rate of abortion. Merlino said, “There’s no doubt this isn’t going to lead to a levelling of the number of abortions in this state – it could well lead to an increase.”

Premier Brumby told media this week that he looks at the bill as a way of bringing the law into line with the “current practice.” Under Supreme Court decisions, as many as 20,000 abortions are already committed legally in Victoria each year. He said today that he expected the bill to pass both houses, telling Parliament decriminalisation was long overdue.

Pro-life MP Marlene Kairouz spoke of a child she knew who had been born 3½ months premature at Sunshine Hospital, weighing only 875 grams. Now six years old, Kairouz said that the child had started school this year at St Albans East Primary.

The proposed law would allow abortions without restrictions up to 24 weeks gestation, well after the point at which physicians can save premature babies. After 24 weeks, the child can be killed if two doctors sign their consent for “medical reasons.”

Kairouz told the House that a child’s heart begins to beat at 24 days gestation and at 20 weeks a foetus shows signs of sensitivity to pain and responds to light, touch, sound and taste.

“I don’t believe human beings deliberately choose to undertake cruelty, but I do believe abortion is a denial of all our humanity and dignity,” Ms Kairouz said. “The unborn child is the most vulnerable human being, and as legislators it is our responsibility to protect all human beings.”

Nationals leader Peter Ryan said, “This bill seeks to legalise the killing of innocents. I am opposed to it and I will vote against it.”

Sports Minister James Merlino and MP Christine Campbell have introduced a series of amendments that seek to reduce the time for access to abortion from 24 to 20 weeks, mandate independent counselling and allow late-term abortions only with the authorisation of a specialist review panel.

“The current legislation is a gift to the abortion industry,” Campbell said

One Labour MP, Kirstie Marshall said that although she supported taking abortion out of the criminal code, she would vote against the bill.

She told the House she could not support the 24-week time limit, citing her personal experience that 19 weeks into the pregnancy of her daughter “she had a gender, a name and was trying to make me as uncomfortable as possible, just to let me know that she needed some space.”

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Victoria, Australia Set to Drop Abortion from Crimes Act