Page 2444 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2022

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We need to make sure that we do not lose what has been won.

I welcome the committee inquiry that will look at any remaining barriers to this. I would encourage anyone who would like to submit to that inquiry to do so. There is a parliamentary inquiry looking at the issue of reproductive rights and barriers to access. Put in your views and your experiences, if you can. That will help us to work out how to do it better. I am really sorry about what is happening so close to us, culturally and contemporaneously.

MS DAVIDSON (Murrumbidgee) (4.53): I rise to speak in solidarity with advocates in the United States who are having a really hard time in the wake of what has happened. I thank Ms Lawder. Sharing personal experience can be very difficult, and I thank her for her courage in sharing that with us earlier today.

Knowing our history is important if we are to continue to enjoy those freedoms into the future. When it comes to reproductive choice for Canberrans, the ability to access this health service is the result of decades of work by local women’s organisations and non-government health services.

In 1994, the Family Planning Association clinic began offering abortion services in Canberra, including financial options for those who could not afford a large up-front cost for health services that need to be accessed within a short time frame. But in 1998, when laws in the ACT restricted access to abortion and required women to attend three appointments within a 10-day period to complete the process, many people started using a private clinic across the state border in Queanbeyan, where those restrictions did not exist. This impacted on the viability of the Canberra clinic.

The reaction to those 1998 changes in our community was visceral. As the Women’s Centre for Health Matters described it in their November 1998 newsletter:

Many in the Canberra community are outraged at the draconian changes the Bill proposes. Community organisations were immediately galvanised into action with a media blitz, forming an action group and organising public rallies.

The murder of a security guard at a Melbourne clinic in 2001 created additional stress and security concerns for the ACT Family Planning Association. While the decriminalisation of abortion in the ACT in 2002 was a great relief for everyone who had rallied, lobbied and campaigned to shift termination of pregnancy from being a criminal issue to a health issue, as it should be, the ACT Family Planning Association’s clinic continued to struggle with costs. In 2004, Marie Stopes took over the provision of abortion services in the ACT, and they continue to provide quality care to people in the Canberra community and surrounding New South Wales.

The establishment of exclusion zones in 2015 resulted from the combined efforts of the ACT Greens, with a bill introduced by Shane Rattenbury, and campaigning and advocacy from local community sector groups to help the community to understand the impact that it has when people are harassed just for accessing health services. The stories that women submitted through the Right of Way website, run by Women’s Centre for Health Matters and Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT, are an important part of the history of this health rights issue, and should not be forgotten.

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