On 16th February Natasha Fyles made the Second Reading speech to parliament on Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Bill 2017. The bill proposes to create a new Act to replace Section 11 of the Medical Services Act, which will be repealed, and bring Northern Territory termination of pregnancy legislation into the 21st century.
The Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Bill, if passed, will repeal and replace current legislation in section 11 of the Medical Services Act dealing with the same subject matter. Consequential amendments will also be made to the Criminal Code Act to decriminalise terminations of pregnancies performed by health practitioners with relevant qualifications.
The Bill is intended to increase access by women to safe terminations of pregnancy in either of out-of-hospital or within hospital settings, with health practitioners applying evidence-based practice within a framework of professional standards and guidelines relevant to assessment and treatment. Health practitioners will be able to maintain a conscientious objection to providing termination of pregnancy services but will be required to refer a woman to another practitioner to access the services sought. The Bill includes the concept of safe access zones to provide protected access to health facilities where termination of pregnancy services are provided.
In an Explanatory Statement issued by the minister:
Part 1 of the Bill outlines preliminary matters. Comprehensive definitions are provided for important terms that are used throughout the Bill. The Bill defines the qualifications and credentials of the suitably qualified medical practitioner who may perform a termination of pregnancy, health practitioners who may assist the termination and the scope of professional standards and guidelines to which the medical practitioner must have regard in assessing the woman.
Part 2 of the Bill outlines the roles of health practitioners and matters relating to termination of pregnancy at not more than 14 weeks, termination of pregnancy at not more than 23 weeks, termination of pregnancy where life is at risk, and the requirements placed on health practitioners who are conscientious objectors.
Part 3 of the Bill creates offences of engagement in prohibited conduct and publication of recording in a safe access zone, defined as an area including the premises where terminations are performed and extending 150 metres from the boundary of the premises. The Part defines the prohibited behaviours and sets out the penalties and defences.
Part 4 of the Bill provides for reporting of information to the Chief Health Officer as prescribed by regulations.
Part 5 of the Bill contains the power of the Administrator to make regulations about such matters as offences, penalties, collection of information or data, or the setting of standards or requirements.
Part 6 of the Bill notes consequential and related amendments to other legislation including the Criminal Code Act and the Medical Services Act.
It is hoped that a vote will take place before 1st July 2017.