Parents should not be coerced into giving birth to children of type or gender they do not want, the Melbourne-born head of Oxford University's ethics department says.
Julian Savulescu, who holds the Uehiro Chair of Practical Ethics at the University of Oxford, said legislation before the Victorian parliament that would legalise abortion on request before the 24th week of pregnancy was flawed, because it did not give couples enough freedom over the number or the type of children they have, The Australian newspaper reports.
"The legislation seems to suggest that some fetuses can be aborted at any time, while others cannot," Professor Savulescu said.
"Abortion is an area where there is hypocrisy between practice and legislation.
"Abortion is a legitimate way for people to control the number of children they have. Morally, we should suggest to the women that they give up the children they don't want, put them up for adoption.
"But there is a division for what, morally, people should do, and what the law requires them to do.
"I don't believe it should require women to deliver children and give them up.
"We can advise, we can counsel and encourage, but in the end, it is the women who are bearing the children, not the state. It's a very serious decision to have a child and the law should not compel people to do it."
Victorian Premier John Brumby is seeking to remove abortion from the ambit of the Victorian Crimes Act - where it has remained for more than 150 years.
Under planned changes, known as the Law Reform Commission's Model B, abortion would be available on request until the 24th week of pregnancy.
It might still be legal after the 24th week, but only with the permission of two medical experts.
Debate on the proposed law is expected to begin on September 9.
Professor Savulescu is among prominent Victorians agitating for the commission's Model C, abortion on request at any stage of a pregnancy.
"Model B imposes criminal sanctions in an area where there is no good justification for criminal sanctions," he said.
"Constraints to access raise impediments to a small number of people who face very difficult decisions (in choosing a late-term abortion).
"They should legitimately be allowed to make that decision, without fear of the law."
Brumby is believed to favour Model B because some fetuses are viable after the 24th week of pregnancy.
But Professor Savulescu said viability "is not a ground for making a decision about whether an entity lives or dies".
"It's quite possible in the future that a fetus below the age of 20 weeks or even 15 weeks will survive, so will we then revise legislation?
"Say we could keep embryos alive at some point in the future. Would we then demand that all embryos be protected?"
Professor Savulescu has already generated a storm of controversy at Oxford, where he has argued that parents should be allowed to use genetic testing to select certain characteristics, such as sporting talent, or intelligence, for their children.
And his comments should come as a shock to campaigners in countries like India and China, where both foeticide and infanticide are widely prevalent because parents prefer male children.