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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 953..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

benefit from this motion. Hopefully, they will no longer be forced to make some of those heartbreaking choices between how much they are going to eat this week and how many of their children are going to go on excursions.

MR SPEAKER: The question is that Mrs Cross's amendment be agreed to.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

MR SPEAKER: The question now is that Ms Dundas's motion, as amended, be agreed to.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Crimes Amendment Bill 2002

Debate resumed from 13 November 2003, on motion by Mr Pratt:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MS DUNDAS (11.25): Mr Speaker, the ACT Democrats will be opposing Mr Pratt's bill today. There are many reasons why we are not able to support this piece of legislation. The first reason is that we believe it is unnecessary. Mr Pratt claims that there is a loophole in the law that does not protect pregnant women from serious crime. I have carefully considered the Crimes Act and ACT legislation and have yet to find where that loophole is.

The Crimes Act contains a whole range of offences for crimes against the person. These include grievous bodily harm, actual bodily harm and common assault and have penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment. There is also an offence in the Medical Practitioners Act that prevents people who are not medical practitioners from carrying out an abortion. The definition of "abortion"is wide and includes many means of causing a woman's miscarriage. It is proposed that this offence will be contained in the Health Professionals Bill, which we will debate later in the year.

I cannot see the loophole that Mr Pratt believes exists. If a pregnant woman is attacked and this causes a miscarriage, there is a whole host of potential laws under which that attacker may be prosecuted, and they have high penalties attached. There simply is no loophole, and I believe that Mr Pratt is scaremongering.

The second reason we are not supporting Mr Pratt's bill is simply that it is bad law. The reason this law exists nowhere else in Australia may be that it is vague, poorly constructed and could have unintended consequences. In the bill before us the definition of "foetus"is vague and uncertain, as is the phrase "the usual and customary standards of medical practice".

In particular, how would this bill impact upon artificial conception and stem cell research? The definition of "foetus"is so vague that it may actually include a single cell fertilised egg. In this case, does the destruction of unused embryos caused by in vitro fertilisation methods constitute an offence to which life imprisonment is attached? What about stem cell research on unused embryos? This is now legal under recent federal

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