Opponents of proposed abortion legislation say too many submitters are being turned away by a Parliamentary committee hearing public submissions on the changes.

But the committee's chair says every voice that needs to be heard will be.

The Abortion Legislation Bill, which would allow women access to abortions until 20 weeks' pregnancy without having to go through current legal loopholes, overwhelmingly passed its first reading in Parliament by 94 votes to 23 in August.

A special Select Committee taking public input on the bill on Wednesday announced it had received more than 25,000 written submissions.


By comparison, the End of Life Choice Bill – legalising voluntary euthanasia – received a record 35,000 submissions last year, while same-sex marriage legislation in 2012 garnered 22,000.

The committee has now confirmed it will be hearing 150 submissions orally, out of 2890 who asked to speak.

That includes legal and medical experts, religious groups, national organisations and people sharing personal experiences. Those who could not be heard would have their written submissions still considered, the committee said.

Conservative lobby group Family First is campaigning firmly against the legislation and its national director, Bob McCoskrie, called the situation "disgraceful".

"It's highly controversial from both sides, so why shut that down? It's a major change," he said.

"I think it's patronising they can determine which submission they can hear, when you're blocking doctors, lawyers, Pasifika leaders."

He said he believed the committee was rushing though what was a significant issue.

The same stage during the euthanasia debate took 16 months, hearing 1350 oral submissions.

The Abortion Legislation Committee's chair, Ruth Dyson, said it would be highly unusual for it to hear all submissions and said the quality of the input, not the speed of the process, was the only consideration.


"Hearing the same thing over and over again doesn't add value to the committee at all," Dyson said.

"Our committee was determined to ensure that all the major organisations and the different perspectives were heard.

"We made sure that we heard from providers of abortion services, that we have had people who had good or bad experiences, people who are in provincial areas, we really took a lot of time to go through the different perspectives."

The committee is expected to report back with proposed changes in February before the bill goes to a second reading.

Anti-abortion groups have described the changes to the legislation as radical, while campaigners for reform say they don't go far enough, with both sides earlier this year vowing to continue lobbying.

What the bill changes

Currently, women need clearance from two doctors on grounds of mental or physical risk from day one to get an abortion. After 20 weeks an abortion currently needs to save the life of the woman.

About 98 per cent of abortions are performed under the mental health clause.
The new law would mean there would be no legal test for earlier than 20 weeks.

Any later and the person performing the procedure will have to "reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate with regard to the pregnant woman's physical and mental health, and wellbeing".

Medical practitioners who didn't comply would face consequences from their medical bodies, rather than under the Crimes Act.

Other changes in the legislation include allowing for the introduction of 150-metre safe zones around clinics where people have been harassed, and allowing women to self-refer to clinics.

It will still be illegal for an unqualified person to try to perform an abortion, and causing the death of an unborn child by harming a pregnant woman will remain an offence.