Page 2382 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2022

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Sadly, this is something that I have witnessed firsthand and at a global level. In my previous role as a gender advocate, over a number of years, from 2010, I had the privilege of attending and participating in the annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women meeting. That first meeting was the 15th anniversary of the historic agreement flowing from the Fourth World Conference on Women, negotiated in Beijing. At that time it became clear that the global agreements made in 1995 were the high watermark for women’s rights as human rights. Just like the women who had come before us, we expended significant effort in defending the rights that had already been agreed.

Year after year, we saw a collective of conservative state players seeking to undermine those rights. What happened in the United States last month is the result of efforts to roll back those fundamental human rights. As the US decision reverberated across the world, there was an understanding here in Australia of the significance of this. We gathered in our thousands to stand in solidarity, to stand in anger and to stand in determination of the need to ensure that we all have control over our bodies and our destinies.

We gathered to affirm the rights of individuals to be who they are, to access the health care they need and to recognise that once one group is targeted it is not long before other marginalised groups are left vulnerable. I was really proud to speak at the Canberra rally and reflect on what this means for us here in Canberra and in Australia. It did provide pause for thought about the journey we have gone through in Canberra and across Australia.

In this Assembly there have been high points and there have been low points in relation to the journey to ensure access to reproductive health rights, including access to safe abortion. As a young woman, I remember a time when the decisions of previous members meant that women were subjected to highly emotive material that, in practice, sought to shame and distress women. I then saw the mobilisation of groups and individuals to reverse this and to decriminalise abortion in the ACT. As others before me have done, I really want to commend the bravery of particular members, such as Helen Cross, who we have recognised this week, to cross the floor on this issue to ensure the bill’s success. We know that that came at significant personal political cost for her.

On this issue, more than many others, we have seen the practical outcomes of having female representation across party lines in order to support sensible reform and better access to reproductive health services. This has happened in this parliament, as well as in federal parliament. Here in the ACT we should be really proud of the work we have done to ensure that people who need access to safe abortions can access them—the work to decriminalise abortion, to create safe environments to enable people to enter a health facility without harassment or intimidation, and to increase access to telehealth and medical abortion.

The announcement today that the ACT government will cover the out-of-pocket costs for residents who require terminations is really significant. This has been an issue raised here and across Australia, and I am really proud to be part of a government that prioritises safe access to sexual and reproductive health rights. We know that, even now, for some, access to terminations can still be challenging. Whether it be another

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