Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2840 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
On the consent issue, we look forward to your explanation of the legal implications of providing written consent, especially in relation to the preamble. Whom have you consulted with? On the 72 hours cooling-off period, we look forward to your showing evidence that women are making this decision without serious consideration at present. We would like you to address the advice of the ACT Discrimination Commissioner that such a mandatory delay could constitute unfavourable treatment by causing distress or even illness, in addition to loss of earnings.
Also would you describe to us how the requirement to consult an unrelated medical practitioner is in the interests of good health care? We look forward to a response from members to the ACT Discrimination Commissioner's advice that subsection 7(1), which requires a woman to consult an unrelated medical practitioner, could "constitute unfavourable treatment on the grounds of pregnancy". This requirement may constitute unfavourable treatment because of additional expense and time involved as well as requiring the woman to submit to a third and possibly unwanted medical consultation. We also look forward to your addressing the ACT Discrimination Commissioner's advice that the Bill could be inconsistent with the Discrimination Act 1991.
On the matter of approval of information pamphlets, the Medical Defence Association possibly will advise its members not to be a member of the panel, as the Bill presents serious medico-legal issues that would leave a practitioner vulnerable at all times to pending legal action. How will the advisory panel members avoid the threat of litigation? How many practitioners do you know who, regardless of their personal belief on abortion, believe that their medical practice should be subject to politics and who would risk 12 months' deregistration when the Crimes Act is still very relevant and the ACT has no legal precedent to rest on? I am sure that you must be across all these issues and the Medical Defence Association's concerns; so I also look forward to hearing your response to that.
If this Bill is passed, each and every one of you is saying that you understand all these health, legal and social issues associated with the Bill that I have just outlined and you are saying that you have proof that the clinic that currently performs abortion services in the ACT is not providing adequate information and counselling. You are saying that you believe seven days over two sitting weeks is enough time to consult the Canberra community and you are satisfied that there has been an assessment of why pregnancies are unwanted in the ACT, that this Bill addresses those issues and that the two members responsible for it are not attempting to legislate their personal religious beliefs but are responding to community needs. As I said, I look forward to hearing all that detail. If you cannot give it, you cannot allow this Bill to be debated today.
MR CORBELL (11.08): Mr Speaker, I rise today to support the motion by my colleague Mr Berry to delay consideration of this Bill. What is at stake here is an issue that I raised in this place last week, and that is the credibility and legitimacy of this legislature and the way it is viewed by the Canberra community. What we have before us today is a Bill which members saw only a week ago. We have amendments to this Bill, which some members want debated today, which were seen less than 24 hours ago.