Bill to legalise abortion for refugees and asylum seekers only, mixed up with immigration and asylum issues, withdrawn by Nauru government

The government of Nauru, a Pacific island 2,500 miles from mainland Australia, has withdrawn a bill that would have legalised abortions for refugee and asylum seeker women following opposition by both government and opposition MPs. The bill had been introduced by Nauru’s Border Protection Minister David Adeang. The debate was broadcast on local radio.

Former Nauruan opposition MP Matthew Batsiua, who followed the debate on local radio said: “To me it was just obvious that there was no consultation, even with government MPs, that’s why it was those government MPs that ultimately debated against the bill and said that they won’t support it.”

Apparently, the motivation behind this law was to prevent pregnant asylum seekers and refugees from travelling to Australia or countries like Papua New Guinea to have an abortion. The Australian Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton had last year expressed concern about this some time after “Abyan”, a Somalian refugee who was raped on Nauru, went back and forth from Nauru twice, with the support of the Australian government, but did not succeed in having an abortion and delivered a baby amidst much uncertainty about what had gone wrong. See Campaign newsletters 20 October 2015 and 28-29 October 2015. At that time, more than 200 people had apparently taken out legal injunctions to remain in Australia after arriving from Nauru to obtain medical care.

Lawyer George Newhouse from the National Justice Project law firm, who has acted for a number of women on Nauru, including “Abyan”, said: “A law like that would never pass muster in Australia. It’s racially discriminatory, in that only one class of person is entitled to a termination in Nauru,” he said. “It’s simply a distortion of Nauruan society for the purposes of accommodating Australia’s cruel immigration policy.”

When asked if the Australian Government had made any representations to Nauruan officials regarding the country’s abortion laws, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection in effect sidestepped the question by saying that laws in Nauru were a matter for the Government of Nauru.

The Nauru Government apparently also declined to comment.

SOURCE:, by Michael Walsh, 11 or 12 November 2016 ; PHOTO: ABC News