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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 5 Hansard (6 April) . . Page.. 1392..


MR PRATT (continuing):

This has been controversial legislation and was voted down by this government in the last Assembly. But it is necessary legislation. One of the reasons that a similar bill introduced by me in the last Assembly was previously voted down by the Stanhope government was that there was argument about the definition of the unborn child and at how many weeks of pregnancy the unborn child warranted protection. To remove this ambiguity, this amendment to the Crimes Act now defines the unborn child as "an embryo or foetus at any stage of development". So we have removed the ambiguity.

This now protects the child where it is known or ought reasonably to be known that the mother is pregnant and removes the argument about at how many weeks of pregnancy should this legislation apply. We are not asking judges to determine when the first breath factor might need to be backdated to how developed the foetus was. What we are saying now is that, at any stage of development, the crime can be committed. This now protects the child where it is known or ought reasonably to be known that the mother is pregnant and removes the argument I have just detailed. The determination of that fact will be at the discretion of the judiciary in relation to each individual case.

It is a fact now that the age of survival for premature babies is becoming younger and younger. In an example documented recently in the United States, young Malachi Whitlock was born 41/2 months early. Malachi's gestation period was only 20 weeks, or only half the normal term, and yet he was born a functioning human being with a chance of a normal life. Therefore, this amendment to the Crimes Act seems to encapsulate protection for all unborn children, regardless of the number of weeks of gestation, which, as Malachi's example shows, cannot be limited in definition as to what constitutes a human being.

Mr Speaker, as the abortion legislation states that women have the right to choose to terminate their pregnancy, this legislation states that women have an equal right to choose to take their pregnancy to term, with anyone who interferes with that in a violent or reckless manner being held accountable for their actions. I would quite strongly encourage the Attorney-General and this government to seriously look at this proposed legislation or at least come up with some alternative, at least come forward with some amendments or at least look at the New South Wales model rather than ignore the fact that there are some significant loopholes in law that must be closed to protect women, to protect pregnant women and to protect the unborn. And so far we have seen not a jot of interest or action on the part of this government to seriously consider these areas that need to be covered.

Mr Speaker, I commend this bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stanhope ) adjourned to the next sitting.

Land (Planning and Environment) (Unit Developments) Amendment Bill 2005

Debate resumed from 16 February 2005, on motion by Dr Foskey:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.


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