The protection of families is recognised in article 23 of the ICCPR and section 17 of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities. Since families are the fundamental unit of society, the well-being of society depends on them. This means, for example, that the maintenance of a family unit is a powerful mitigating factor in sentencing. It also means that deportation of non-citizens should be avoided where to do so would break up a family. The right to a family life also has consequences for reproductive rights, including abortion.
Liberty Victoria’s position on reproductive rights starts from a number of core premises.
In respect of reproductive rights the relevant international instruments and provisions are:
Liberty Victoria believes that implicit in these provisions is the individual’s right to determine the course of their life including childbearing. Together these provisions support the position that men and women should exercise their own reason and conscience in relation to their own fertility. However these international instruments do not form part of Australia’s domestic law.
The right to determine the course of her life, and to exercise the right to security and liberty is an integral part of a modern woman’s struggle to assert her dignity and worth as a human being. Consequently, the decision whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy is a moral decision that must ultimately be made by the woman concerned. Liberty Victoria believes that laws which seek to constrain the exercise of reproductive rights are an interference with bodily integrity and dignity, personal autonomy and a breach of an individual’s right to security and liberty under international law. They are also a breach of an individual’s right to privacy. As the US Supreme Court explained in Eisenstadt v Baird if ‘the right of privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision to bear or beget a child’. Laws relating to reproductive rights are generally a matter for the State or Territory Parliament. Different jurisdictions in Australia have different approaches. Liberty Victoria believes that the guiding principles for any legislation concerning reproductive rights including abortion should be the international human rights principles outlined above.