Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2886 ..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
Let us promulgate the information in relation to breast cancer. These issues seem to have emerged miraculously over the last few weeks. I have no objection to people receiving information, but I have a fundamental objection to people being forced to receive that information in a graphic, confronting format. Think of the danger that we may be exposing people to. A woman having gone through the trauma of finding herself pregnant seeks a termination but first has to go on a guilt trip that we invent in this place. That cannot do anything else but increase the statistical probability of people suffering from depression and other consequences beyond the procedure.
Before I finish I will refer to the provisions relating to seeking parental permission if under the age of 18. I find it extremely anomalous that we would want to set that age different from the age of consent. What sort of crazy logic sets up laws which set the age of consent lower than the age when a woman can make a decision such as this that may affect their lives? Imagine the situation and the additional trauma facing some young woman under the age of 18 who finds herself pregnant, possibly because of the carelessness or the insistence of her partner at the time. Under this law she must go to her parents to get permission to terminate that pregnancy. Her parents may have different values than she has. Her parents may not want to give that permission. What right do we have to set the age at which people can volunteer for a termination different from the age of consent? It is a nonsense in itself. I do not support this Bill at all.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (3.59): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, might I say at the outset that I support this Bill and will be voting for it. I respect the opinions of people who are pro-choice, just like I respect the opinions of people who, like myself, are pro-life. Abortion, of course, is the classic conscience issue. I have heard some comments during this debate that, really, this is all too hard, that we have no expertise in this matter, that it is something that this Assembly should not be dealing with, that there are 15 men and only two women here.
Taking the latter point first, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, that is just a fact of this Assembly. It might affect things we do from time to time, but that is, unfortunately or fortunately, just a fact of life, whichever way you look at it, and something that we live with. As to the comment that we have no expertise, that this is something that we cannot make a real decision on because we do not have the required degree of knowledge, that is something that could be said about many pieces of legislation that come before this house. It is something that members have to grapple with, take advice on, consult and talk to other members about in terms of coming up with decisions on certain pieces of legislation. That happens very often in this house. I do not accept that as an argument for either trying to postpone this matter or not dealing with it. From time to time legislation such as this, which is difficult, is going to crop up and it is our role as legislators to vote on and deal with it.
I have heard a number of comments so far in relation to this matter. This is a very different Bill that Mr Osborne has introduced and some of the amendments are very different from what was proposed initially. This is not a Bill about whether abortions should be legal. It is not even a Bill about whether or not the unborn child is a human being. It is not even a Bill about what necessarily motivates a woman to resort to an