Sweeping reforms to Western Australia’s abortion laws will take effect next year after being overwhelmingly approved by both chambers of state parliament.
The WA Director of the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) Peter Abetz told Vision Radio they effectively allow terminations up to birth, adding: “It’s a tragic day for unborn babies, and I think it’s the height of arrogance of the Labor government to not have allowed any amendments to their legislation, because now this is undoubtedly, I would say, the most liberal abortion laws anywhere in the world.”
The measures they allow include:
- No need for women to be referred
- No need for mandatory counselling
- Sex-selection abortions
- Abortion of healthy babies to birth for psychosocial reasons
- Abortion of healthy babies because they may have Down Syndrome
- No mandatory care for babies born alive after a late term abortion
- No mandatory obligation for doctors to provide counselling information
- No parental or guardian consent required for girls under 16
- Chief Health Officer banned from collecting information on reasons for an abortion
In a statement the WA government said: “The new laws address inequity of access in line with other Australian jurisdictions and have removed clinically unnecessary barriers for women accessing an abortion. The modernised laws have reduced the number of health practitioners required to be involved in most abortion care from two to one, abolished the Ministerial Panel requirement for later-term abortions, the mandatory counselling provision, and the requirement for Ministerial approval for a health service to perform late abortion. The new laws allow health practitioners to conscientiously object, but they are required to transfer the patient’s care or provide information on where to access that care.”
The state’s lower house passed the bill with alacrity. It increases the threshold for abortion on demand from 20 weeks gestation to 23 weeks, with procedures after that only requiring a single doctor’s agreement, even through a telehealth consultation from another state. The upper house took several days to consider a raft of amendments, but rejected all of them.
Liberal MLC Nick Goiran who fought for the amendments was disappointed not one was passed. The ABC reports he became visibly emotional when speaking about a clause of the bill that would mean cases where babies live for a short period after an abortion would no longer be investigated by the coroner. “This surely must be the darkest provision on our statute books,” he lamented.
Labor MLC Kate Doust who moved many of the amendments said: “My private view is the fact that we’ve pushed out the boundary from 20 to 23 weeks for an abortion without reason will further erode the view that we place on the value of human life.”
Mr. Abetz told Vision Radio: “I believe that anybody who has any sense of fairness, even pro-choice people, would find some of the provisions in this bill simply unacceptable. Provisions that South Australia put into their legislation when they modernised it back in 2021, were specifically rejected by the West Australian Labor Party. And the South Australian legislation was certainly not a pro-life kind of legislation. They were supported across the party spectrum, and yet WA Labor refused to put them into their legislation.”
“The South Australian legislation specifically bans sex selection abortions. The WA amendment was moved. It was rejected. That now means that a judge who reads the legislation to see what the intent of Parliament was in passing this legislation will read the Parliament’s specific intent was to allow sex selection abortions, which now means that in Western Australia, if a doctor refuses to refer someone for a sex selection abortion because they don’t want to do it, if they don’t refer them, they’re actually now in breach of the law. So this will have repercussions for doctors and it also has repercussions for us as a nation because we know from the research La Trobe University has done that in some of our ethnic communities, we are having 125 boys born for every 100 girls.”
The ACL’s WA director noted that the Australian Medical Association (AMA) request for an amendment was also rejected. It wanted an obstetrician or gynaecologist to be the second doctor that would have to sign off on authorising a late term abortion. “They were disappointed that that did not get up. And you know, the reality is when you’re dealing with late term abortions, that means post-23 weeks when babies are actually viable. At one end of the hospital you’re actually terminating the life of a baby at plus 23 weeks. And at the other end, for a baby that’s been born prematurely, we pull out all stops to give them all the best possible medical care. And they’ve got a good chance of surviving into a healthy adulthood,” Mr Abetz observed.
He concedes that Labor’s overwhelming majority in WA allowed the new laws to pass with the greater public unaware of some of the more concerning provisions. “The mainstream media have been totally silent on this. There’s no mention that Parliament allowed sex selection abortions. There’s no mention that late term abortions are now allowed for psychosocial reasons. There’s no mention made that the law specifically does not require doctors to give babies born alive after a late term abortion appropriate medical care or palliative care. Parliament specifically rejected the requirement of doctors to provide information where women might be able to get counselling for their decision about having an abortion or if they suffer post-abortion grief. There’s no mention of that. If people knew that. I think they’d be horrified.”
“I think it’s really important that anybody who has any sense of fairness should be involved in making public what’s actually happened and certainly we’ll be working hard in the lead-up to the next election to expose how the members of the Legislative Council voted on these amendments,” he concluded.