Page 2379 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2022

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about me and my circumstances. They were not there praying for me. If they wanted to pray for me, that was their choice, but I would have preferred them to do it somewhere else, and preferably not while they were throwing buckets of blood over me. I was afraid, and that fear has stayed with me. It is not that I am fearful all of the time, but I remember that visceral fear. They were terrible, dark times for women seeking what should have been a perfectly legal abortion. Some of that intimidation and fear have continued until this day.

I have never spoken about this abortion before, publicly or privately—never. In fact, last night I had to ring my children and tell them I was going to speak about it, because they did not know about it. It was not because I felt ashamed of my decision or regretted it, but because it was a private matter. It is not something that comes up all of the time in the general course of conversation. When I did decide to talk about it today, it was because I wanted young women and people to know that this is their body and their choice, and I will support that.

I am telling my story today, even though it was quite a long time ago, because I know it can still be really difficult to go through this process. Having an abortion is never an easy decision. I believe, and I still believe, that it was my decision to make, and I have never regretted that decision. Sure, on occasion, I have reflected; and, in a way, I have mourned for what might have been. For many years, on the anniversary of that abortion, I thought about it. For many years, on what would have been the birth date of that baby, I wondered about that baby and what would have happened with that baby. Would they have started school? Maybe they would have gone on to find a cure for cancer if they were here today. They never did.

A lot of time has passed since then, and it has been years since I have thought about it in that way. Now I could not even tell you what those dates were; it is in the past. What I have never forgotten, and I think I will never forget, is the ugliness of the protests and the fear that they created. This has fuelled my commitment to try to make sure that these kinds of protests cannot take place.

I have never regretted my decision to have that abortion. I would not be the person I am today without having made that decision. It is unlikely that I would even be in this place today without having made that decision. Having an abortion is not an easy decision to make, anywhere, anytime, for anyone. I personally believe that it is a woman’s right to choose, and I will fight for that.

I also understand, respect and acknowledge that that view is not held by everyone, including those in my own party, and we have to respect that. For me, as one of my own kids said to me last night, “It’s your body, and it’s your choice.”

DR PATERSON (Murrumbidgee) (11.56): I would like to begin by thanking Ms Lawder for sharing that deeply personal story. It was incredibly brave of her, and I thank her.

I welcome and provide my wholehearted support for this important executive motion in respect of abortion rights in the ACT. I welcome the ACT government’s announcement this morning of free abortion services for Canberrans. I am proud to be

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