Pro-choice pollie set to miss abortion vote

Source: The Examiner
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Debate on decriminalising abortion in Tasmania is likely to take place in the absence of one pro-choice MLC today.

Hobart independent MLC Rob Valentine requested a leave of absence from Parliament this week due to a family illness.

Mr Valentine has requested a pair for the vote.

However, The Examiner understands that so far no MLCs who oppose the Bill have offered to pair with him.

A pair would not partake in the final vote, so Mr Valentine’s absense would not affect the final balance of numbers.

The Reproductive Health Bill passed the lower house 13 to 11 in April and appeared headed toward a seven-all draw in the Legislative Council, including Mr Valentine.

Leader of Government Business Craig Farrell introduced the legislation to the upper house this morning and then suspended debate to await further briefings.

Health Minister Michelle O’Byrne, who sponsored the legislation, said earlier this week that she hoped the briefings would absolve MLCs concerns with the legislation.

The legislation proposes decriminalising abortion and leaving consent as the only requirement for abortion up to 16-weeks gestation.

After 16-weeks two doctors would be required to find that continuing the pregnancy posed a greater risk to the woman’s physical and psychological health than termination would, having account to her social or economic circumstances.

Mr Farrell urged MLCs not to misinterpret the social and economic clause when considering the legislation.

“Social and economic factors are absolutely relevant and capable of significantly impacting on a woman’s mental and physical health,” he said.

“These words are often misinterpreted in this issue to suggest women terminate a pregnancy on a trivial or superficial matters.”

The debate is likely to the house this afternoon.

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