Page 2375 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2022

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Following this decision, which results in no constitutional rights to abortion, people in Canberra and around the world felt the impact of this ruling. It strips away rights that generations before them and trailblazers of the feminist movement had fought for. It is an unbelievable, giant step backwards for women in our fight for gender equality.

The ACT government hold the fundamental belief that it is a person’s right to choose, because seeking an abortion is a health matter, not a criminal one. ACT Labor stand by that, and I will always stand by that.

Sadly, there is a long history of women and people who can become pregnant being denied the right to have control over decisions concerning their own bodies. In the ACT there has been a long and progressive agenda, led by ACT Labor, to ensure that abortion is decriminalised, stays available and accessible, is safe, legal and free, and that no-one is subject to abuse or discrimination when accessing an abortion.

I am so proud that my dad, former Labor minister and feminist Wayne Berry, initiated that work to decriminalise abortion in the ACT back in 2002. He did this on behalf of feminists who had been fighting long and hard for decades. That was 20 years ago this month.

ACT Labor made its first attempt to decriminalise abortion in the ACT in 1994. However, the numbers were not there to support that at the time. My dad only just had the numbers in 2002, and it was with the support of then Canberra Liberals member Helen Cross, who crossed the floor to support the bill, that decriminalising abortion was successful. It was a brave and courageous move by Helen to cross the floor, and women can be grateful today for her stance on that day, 20 years ago this month.

My dad said during the debate:

What pains me the most about the legislation as it exists in the ACT is that it attempts to create the impression that a woman is a lesser person if she has an abortion. This is unacceptable. It is unacceptable to any right-minded person in the ACT. It is particularly unacceptable to those of us who have progressive views on this issue and for those who have been fighting the campaign for such a long time.

Those words continue to ring true today. We continue in the ACT to build even more protections and support for women who are seeking this health service.

In the ACT, whilst abortion had been decriminalised for over a decade, at the time there remained a small group of people who would gather outside a health facility in an attempt to shame and alarm people who were seeking an abortion. At the time I wrote to the Right to Life Association in the ACT and to Archbishop Prowse and asked them to move their protest to the Legislative Assembly, to protest to the people who actually make the laws, and to not target women at a time when they would be feeling most vulnerable. Unfortunately, my approach fell on deaf ears. So to prevent anti-abortion protestors from holding these so-called vigils outside clinics, exclusion zones were introduced by the ACT government to prevent patients from being harassed and intimidated.

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