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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3842..


Debate resumed.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Business and Economic Development, Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Minister for the Environment, Water and Climate Change, Minister for the Arts) (9:08): It is always problematic for men to pronounce upon issues that go to the heart of whether a woman ought to have the power to make her own reproductive decisions. The dilemma is that we humans are social animals, and if we are to accord a woman the power to make her own reproductive decisions we must do so as a community, as men and women. That means respecting the power of a woman and the decisions she takes. It means supporting her power and her decisions.

This community had a debate in relation to a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy back in 2002. Back in 2002 this community, through its elected representatives, chose to respect the right of a woman to control her own reproductive destiny. Personally, I sense no appetite and no agitation in the community for a renewal or a revival of that debate. I sense no pressure in the community for a revisiting of the decision made at that time, a decision that gave Canberra women power over their bodies.

But I do sense, and I am fearful, that there are some in this place who will not rest until abortion has been recriminalised in this territory. We have already witnessed under-the-radar attempts to redefine the legal point at which life begins—packaged creatively, to be sure, but nonetheless the first salvo of those who would recriminalise abortion in an instant if they had their way.

The current Leader of the Opposition may protest in the media that he has no intention of reviving the abortion debate. But what of his team? What of Mrs Dunne? What of his deputy, Mr Smyth? What of Mr Pratt? And, crucially, how would the leader vote should one of his team choose to revive the issue for him in the event of a Liberal victory in October?

Removing provisions relating to abortion in the Crimes Act was a deliberate and quite explicit statement by the legislators of this territory. It was a deliberate and explicit statement that the termination of a pregnancy was a matter for a woman. But it was more than that. It was a deliberate and explicit statement that abortion was no business of the criminal law.

Of course, that does not mean it is no business of society. It is surely the business of society to support women in all of their reproductive choices. That includes supporting women in their efforts to avoid unwanted pregnancies in the first place. It means extending to them a range of choices when it comes to contraception. It means supporting open and clear sex education so that young women in particular understand their contraceptive choices and make decisions based on good advice. It means empowering women to say no to sex if that is what they want to say. It means empowering women to say no to sex without a condom if that is what they want to say. It also means ensuring that, when women do make the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy, they have access to a procedure that is safe and free from complications.

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