Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1333 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
So, Mr Speaker, if I were to sum up in a sentence the Bill I present today it would be that choice must be informed. This Bill is about informed choice; about informed consent; about giving women who seek abortions all the information they need in order to be able to make a considered decision about a very serious medical procedure and one which can be emotionally devastating. And it seeks to ensure that they are guaranteed a little time to consider the information that they are given.
Mr Speaker, I bring this Bill on because, firstly, it was raised by a colleague in the Assembly and, secondly, I have heard enough evidence to convince me that women seeking abortions in the ACT are not being given adequate information and are therefore unable to give their informed consent.
I have been told that some women who have used a clinic have not been advised about the possible physical and emotional consequences of the procedure. As an example, I offer the public testimony one Canberra woman gave the National Health and Medical Research Council. The woman told the council that she felt the Canberra clinic presented abortion as the only possible option for her at a time when she was utterly confused and unable to make a firm decision. She said:
Under the current arrangements, why is it that "uncertain" women are battling to receive access to high quality and professional services from abortion clinics? Why are most of the "uncertain" women often ambushed into abortion? Was it wrong of me to expect the abortion staff to encourage life? Where are women like me to go? These questions need to be addressed because many abortion clinics operate under names which suggest that support and advice is what women will get (for example "Pregnancy Advisory Centre" in South Australia and the "Reproductive Unit" in the ACT).
Mr Moore: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw the member's attention to the risks of misleading the Assembly when he is talking on these matters. He knows very well that the Department of Health has just funded an organisation to provide the sort of information that he is talking about - completely separate from that - and he is at great risk of misleading the Assembly.
MR SPEAKER: Mr Moore, there is no point of order. You will have the opportunity to respond to Mr Osborne at some later stage in this debate.
MR OSBORNE: I thank Mr Moore for his assistance. Mr Speaker, that is entirely unacceptable and if this testimony were given about any other medical procedure people would be calling for the head of the doctor involved. This Bill does not prohibit abortion in the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy, but it does seek to set some basic standards which have to be met before an abortion can take place. This Bill does rule out abortions in the second and third trimesters - so-called late-term or partial-birth abortions.
Before I get into the detail of my Bill I wish to review the law and practice as it stands and detail why I think it is wholly inadequate. Mr Speaker, earlier this year the Western Australian Government struck out the provisions in its Crimes Act which outlawed abortion in that State. But although similar provisions exist in every