Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 5 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 1335 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
And so a path was found through the criminal law - a path wide enough to accommodate more than 95,000 abortions a year. Because we have worked a convenient way around the criminal law and because politicians are too terrified to even discuss this issue, we have developed a medical procedure like no other - one that operates outside the scrutiny we demand of every other intrusive procedure. I believe it is time to ensure that abortion is treated in the same way as every other medical procedure and to demand that the same standards of patient information are applied.
Mr Speaker, the Bill defines two criteria under which a woman may have an abortion - a medical emergency or grave psychiatric risk. The definition of grave psychiatric risk draws on Menhennitt's and Levine's judgments which allowed abortion if a woman faced "serious danger to her physical or mental health". In the case of a medical emergency an abortion is allowed at any time during the pregnancy. In the case of grave psychiatric risk an abortion is allowed during the first 12 weeks of the pregnancy - the first trimester stage. And according to the only study available on abortion, 96 per cent of women who had abortions in New South Wales in 1991 had them in the first trimester.
The Bill requires a second opinion before an abortion can go ahead and requires the facility performing the abortion to inform the woman of the name of the medical practitioner; the probable gestational age of the foetus at the time of the abortion; any medical risks associated with the type of procedure to be used; the possible detrimental psychological effects of abortion; agencies operating in the Territory which provide pregnancy assistance or which make arrangements for the adoption of children. The Bill ensures that consent must be given in writing, that minors have parental consent and that there be a delay of 72 hours between the woman being given the information and undergoing the abortion. That is what we have called a cooling-off period, Mr Speaker. It also includes a privacy provision and makes it an offence under the Crimes Act to identify a woman on whom an abortion has been performed.
Finally, Mr Speaker, the Bill requires that any facility performing abortions in the ACT must produce an annual report setting out the number of abortions performed at the facility during the year; the reasons for the abortions; the ages of the women concerned; the gestational ages of the foetuses at the time of the abortion; and the number of women who had previously had an abortion performed at the facility. Mr Speaker, this Bill sets out to formally establish and limit, in law, what Menhennitt and Levine believed existed - a lawful abortion. It sets out to properly regulate what is an intrusive and traumatic procedure. And above all, Mr Speaker, it sets out to ensure that choice is informed. I commend this Bill to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Moore) adjourned.
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care): Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a brief statement.
Leave not granted.