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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2627..


Mr Humphries: I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt Ms Dundas, but I do so for the sake of clarity. It seems to me that all of this bill is redundant and beyond our power to consider, given that we have repealed already tonight the act which most of this amendment seeks to amend. The provisions that Ms Dundas is talking about have been removed from the substantive act; therefore, the amendments to the act have no effect.

The only provision which it seems to me we can debate tonight is the very last clause of the bill, which is about proposed new section 45A of the Crimes Act. That seems to me to be the only thing we can debate tonight. I just thought that I should bring that to Ms Dundas' attention, because the rest of it is redundant.

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is it agreed we should debate only that last clause?

MS DUNDAS: As I have said, I think that the assumptions that underpin the need for the new section 45A are completely false. I do not believe that abortion should ever be a crime for a woman and I do not believe that the administration of a safe abortion should be a crime, either. I do not see the need for any part of this bill at all. Hence, I oppose it.

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (10.38): Mr Deputy Speaker, as I have said, I believe that we are debating proposed new section 45A of the Crimes Act, which reads quite simply, "A person must not coerce a woman to have an abortion. Maximum penalty-imprisonment for 10 years." We have debated all sorts of things tonight. We have debated whether it is a woman's right to have an abortion, we have debated what information a woman ought to have before she makes that decision, and we have debated what rights a person has in dealing with a woman about whether there is a power to refer that woman to somebody else to conduct an abortion or whatever.

All those might be matters of contention. The argument that a person should not coerce a woman to have an abortion surely rises above all of that as a clear and indisputable observation of what ought to be the case. I assume that no-one in this place would suggest that it was legitimate, appropriate or acceptable for a person to coerce a woman in respect of an abortion; in fact, to coerce a woman in respect of anything, but most particularly perhaps in the case of abortion.

That was seen to be a deficiency in the law. Mrs Dunne has quite appropriately said that if our law is to enhance the validity of a woman's right to choose, as members of this place appear to believe, her right to choose is not enhanced when she is coerced. Indeed, her right to choose is taken way in the circumstances where she is coerced.

Unless members can see some kind of hidden code within the words that are presented there, and it seems to me that there is not any code or secret meaning, then we have an obligation to support this provision. It is almost so axiomatic as not to require any argument. I would hope that members will support this provision and support it without hesitation.


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