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While the abortion bill has passed an important first step, the amendments in place are so elastic, it feels like the status quo has not shifted.
It’s official. Almost. After three days of jousting, the bill to decriminalise abortion has passed through the lower house by a measure of 59-31. The premier opponent of the bill, was, amazingly, the former minister for women, Tanya Davies, per The Guardian, “sought unsuccessfully to move a number of amendments, including one to ban abortions procured on the basis of gender selection.”
With that being said, there are changes to the original bill. Those opposed wanted the “legal upon request” period reduced from 22 weeks to 20, and enforce mandatory counselling for those who seek a termination. Those amendments fell short.
The accepted amendments are thus. Doctors will now require ‘informed consent’ from the patient before performing the procedure, which is defined as “permission granted in full knowledge of the possible consequences, typically that which is given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with knowledge of the possible risks and benefits.”
This was put in place by Attorney General Mark Speakman, one that the Australian Medical Association warned would be an unnecessary “extra hurdle” for the patient in the process. Another, which is far more insidious, was put forward by Liberal MP Alister Henskens, one that will require a doctor to access whether it would be “beneficial” to discuss counselling with the woman, and refer her to a service if the patient agrees to do so.
The bill will be analysed by committee, before heading to the upper house for a vote next week.
Those opposed wanted the “legal upon request” period reduced from 22 weeks to 20, and enforce mandatory counselling for those who seek a termination. Those amendments fell short.
There are a couple of sticking points. Leaving the decision up to the individual is not a solution. As a woman, the “Doctor” is not just a uniform mass, one that moves in the same way, in the name of empathy, understanding and a unison chorusing of the Hippocratic oath. They are subject to their own politics, especially when the law allows.
While outlawing mandatory counselling is an important step, allowing a doctor to suggest it, according to their judgement as law, is a step backwards. As is the required (often written) informed consent.
We’re aware of the risks, and we’re aware of what we’re doing. To receive the service, I’m afraid many of us will accept the conditions placed upon us, thereby shortcutting the choice we will soon apparently have. They remain in the position of power, not us.