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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 962..


MS MacDONALD (continuing):

experiencing any form of violence. In April 2003 the government tabled Justice, options and prevention: working to make the lives of ACT women safe, and in May 2003 it tabled the government response to the select committee report The status of women in the ACT, of which the government agreed to all of the recommendations regarding violence against women. The government is taking a proactive approach by providing the community with more options and means to prevent violence.

Every woman who loses her pregnancy or her newborn child experiences her loss in a different way. Each woman has a different response, based upon her cultural and spiritual beliefs. Her grief and anger will be particular to her. Describing what is lost will also be shaped by a belief of what has been lost. Trying to interpret these feelings in law and identify what is lost is extremely complex. What is self-evident and demonstrable in all cases is that any harm to the pregnancy, whether defined as a child or potential child, can only occur by harming the mother. In terms of current criminal law, it is not possible to harm a foetus without harming the mother.

Referencing the mother and the consequences of the offence against the mother as the focus of an offence and aggravation of an offence is a proposition that addresses the loss itself without having to enter into the debate about the spiritual or ideological nature of the loss. Rather than attempting to create an offence that inadvertently creates a dichotomy between mother and foetus, creating an aggravation of offences against the person is an approach that supports the victim and accounts for the crime.

When we had the debate about abortion, however many months ago it was, I said that I would never find that speech easy to give. Although Mr Pratt has said this is not re-opening the abortion debate, it is actually opening up the issues again. It is being suggested that we take into account the amount of stress that is caused a woman by the loss of a child through domestic violence or a car accident. I believe that the government is addressing these issues in a much more comprehensive and workable fashion. I appeal to the Assembly to vote against this divisive bill.

MR STEFANIAK (12.00): Mr Speaker, the point raised by Ms MacDonald about re-opening the abortion debate is a common fallacy when debating this bill. Mr Pratt quite clearly is not re-opening that debate. If people want to fall into that trap they can. But that is incorrect when you look at this legislation. In 42A (1) he specifically excludes the abortion debate from the actual bill itself, and he makes that point quite clear. This is about an entirely separate issue. If people want to confuse it with abortion they can, but I think they muddy the waters by doing so.

It is not as if this is a new area either. In New South Wales, Bob Debus has indicated that they are going down this path. I am not sure if he has introduced legislation yet, but he has certainly indicated an intention to do so. In Queensland there is a fairly similar law to this, and in a number of American states there are laws in relation to this.

I will speak on a couple of points raised by some other speakers to date. Ms Dundas has asked why we need a law like this. Why not have a law against murdering gays, for example? I point out to her that we do have separate laws here and that racial vilification laws have been in since 1991. We now have gay vilification laws, and those are separate. According to her logic, those are very similar to this, so why on earth is she not


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