Page 2458 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 August 2022

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Members should be familiar with the Indiana abortion doctor who raised alarms after treating a 10-year-old rape victim. That same doctor has received kidnapping threats against her own daughter and a vague notice from the state’s Attorney-General that she is “under investigation”. Bizarrely, we have also seen an Australian woman questioned by the US border force on her way to Canada, asking if she had recently had an abortion. She was deported back to Australia. We have also recently seen Republican lawmakers send legal threats to Texas organisations offering funding for out-of-state travel for abortions. That is just scratching the surface of what has changed in the US.

By contrast, we are indeed doing a lot better here in Australia, but that is not to say that we are beyond reproach. Our laws, which are strong, are still statutory but vary from state and territory. Indeed, the system in this country has been described as a postcard lottery in terms of access, and there are still issues with organisations receiving public funding but not providing contraception or abortion services.

Additionally, different gestational limits and requirements apply depending on the jurisdiction. A medical abortion is only allowed under federal regulation up to nine weeks of gestation, when the World Health Organisation says it can be safely used up to 12 weeks of gestation. Australians cannot rely on a bill of rights or constitutional protections to keep abortion safe and accessible, and while access is comparatively good in Australia compared to other places, vigilance is still required.

There are many current and aspiring politicians in this country who would remove the right to abortion altogether if they had their way, and we have already seen a significant amount of lobbying attempts within Australia to change our views.

I was most pleased to see state and federal women’s safety ministers meet for the first time since our new federal government was elected to discuss a specific plan for ending gender equity issues and violence against women and children. I am also encouraged that this motion will be supported within this chamber and by the incredible turnout at protests by Australians for Americans one month ago in solidarity with those affected by the loss of Roe v Wade.

Recently, we have also seen abortion in certain Australian states and territories become more accessible due to what has been described as a wave of liberalisation that contrasts with the recent moves in the United States. Part of this liberalisation includes the announcement that the ACT government will be expanding publicly available, free abortion services. This is an excellent development and I commend the decision to move in this direction, as one of the greatest barriers we have had here in Australia has been cost in accessing abortions.

Canberrans are really privileged to live in a reliably progressive jurisdiction and under a government which will always protect and cultivate their autonomy. I also feel extremely proud to be a member of this government, elected by those Canberrans for the same reason, and I will take this opportunity to remind Canberrans that for as long as I am here, I will act in the interests of protecting the fundamental human right of bodily autonomy and a woman’s right to choose.

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