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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 1897..


Wednesday, 5 June 2002

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed.)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Maternal Health Legislation Amendment Bill 2002

Mrs Dunne , pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MRS DUNNE (10.33): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

In rising to present the Maternal Health Legislation Amendment Bill, I aim to amend the Health Regulations (Maternal Health Information) Act 1998, and the Crimes Act 1900, to provide extra protections for women who contemplate an abortion.

As you know, Mr Speaker, abortion is the most divisive issue dealt with in this Assembly. Members divide on pro or anti-abortion lines to become adversaries. It is a matter of great regret that there is no meeting of the minds and no attempt at convergence.

What we see instead is the grim process of gainsaying-a harsh and brutal rejection of each other's views and the hurling of abuse, thinly disguised as parliamentary debate. I cannot help feeling that we dismay not only ourselves but our electorates when we do this, because, in truth, we are failing as legislators in a very real sense.

My earnest and sincere desire is to try to help turn that around. Part of that turnaround is the bill. Good faith to me means, among other things, a search for commonality, a genuine attempt to identify affinities and accentuating the positives.

If politics is indeed the art of the possible, then I believe it behoves us to search diligently for an outcome that reflects that. This is especially so when dealing, as we are here, not with an abstract issue that can be contemplated with academic disinterest, but an issue that is, in a very real sense, about people and even life itself. These are responsibilities we do not take lightly. Our deliberations need to affirm that commitment.

This bill seeks to provide added protections for a woman who finds herself faced with a difficult pregnancy. Opponents of the Health Regulation (Maternal Information) Act 1998, argue that abortion is just another medical procedure and that it is unfair or unnecessary to apply special rules, such as informed consent provisions or cooling-off


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