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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 294 ..

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Amendment Bill 2018

Debate resumed from 29 November 2018, on motion by Mr Rattenbury:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HANSON (Murrumbidgee) (4.44): The Canberra Liberals will support this bill. It addresses a very difficult situation. The bill deals with the situation where no heartbeat is detected in a child before 20 weeks of gestation but the child is not delivered until after 20 weeks. Currently, the legislation requires that if a child is born after 20 weeks, the parents must register the birth. If it is not delivered prior to 20 weeks, it cannot be registered, as it is not legally considered a stillbirth. Not only is this an inherently difficult time for parents, it is exacerbated by the inconsistency in current practice where some physicians will record and report the date that the heartbeat was detected to have stopped, and others do not.

The bill therefore allows parents to choose whether or not to register a birth when there was no heartbeat before 20 weeks but delivery after. This recognises that, for some parents, being forced to register adds to their trauma and grief while, for others, being allowed to register is an important recognition of their loss and allows closure.

We note the minister's comments that this applies only to situations where there is no heartbeat before 20 weeks but delivery occurs after 20 weeks, and that it does not affect the requirements in all other stillbirths.

The bill also removes the definition of "stillborn" based solely on body mass. Currently, the legislation uses 400 grams, as it was drafted when gestational age could not be accurately established. Current technology can accurately determine gestational age, so the definition using body mass is considered redundant.

Situations such as these are extremely difficult. It is our duty as legislators to provide the best, most supportive framework possible. In that light the Canberra Liberals believe that this bill is an improvement on the existing laws, and we will support the bill.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Corrections and Justice Health, Minister for Justice, Consumer Affairs and Road Safety and Minister for Mental Health) (4.46), in reply: The government understands the importance of supporting all families in our community and providing high quality health and community services through pregnancy and parenthood.

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