Page 2443 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2022
MS CLAY (Ginninderra) (4.49): I want to say a few words as the ACT Greens spokesperson for women. I am really glad to see this motion today. I am quite horrified by what has prompted this motion.
I caught up with a friend recently who was visiting from America, and she was really worried about Roe v Wade. She did not want to go home, and we did not know what to tell her. It is absolutely terrifying to watch this happening in a country that has had rights for quite some time. What she actually said was that she did not want to go back home to Gilead. Most people probably know that Gilead is the fictional city in the dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. We were not joking about this; she was speaking with genuine fear and anxiety.
I remember reading that book for the first time when I was at university. There is now a popular TV series based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I found that I was not able to bring myself to watch the TV series. It came out in a wave of fairly close to truth apocalyptic fiction, and I find I have lost my appetite for that kind of television at the moment.
The Handmaid’s Tale is a really powerful story. It is as powerful now as it was in 1985, when Margaret Atwood wrote it. The reason is that she did not actually make up any of that story. She took different elements from different cultures in different time periods and strung them together into a clear narrative in a story that we are now seeing unfolding in America.
In the book women are enslaved as breeding stock. They do not get to make decisions about their bodies. They do not get to consent to what happens to their bodies. They do not have their own names. The hero in the story is called Offred. She is “of Fred”; she is the property of Fred. Most people probably know where that naming convention comes from in historical times. It has been a long time since I have read that book, but I should probably force myself to pick it up and look at it again.
It is utterly baffling that we are talking about this in 2022. I appreciate that everyone in here has told their personal stories—some really touching personal stories—and given us the history of these rights in the ACT. I understand the distress and the anger of people watching their rights getting eroded. It is horrifying that we are talking about a world in which abortion is no longer health care. Having brought about a world in which abortion is simply health care, to watch that being eroded is terrible.
I am glad that this is not up for debate. I will not say I am grateful. This is just what we should expect here. I am genuinely delighted to see the ACT government announcements today. We know that abortion is health care. We know that we have a legal right to it. We understand that this is just a normal way of being for women and for pregnant people, and I am really pleased that we will now have free abortion that will be much easier to access and that will come along with free contraception. That will remove some of the remaining barriers, and that is great. I want to shout out to the women and pregnant people who are really worried. We will guard it here.