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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 2917 ..

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (7.36): Mr Speaker, I believe that real choice is about having a full suite of information. I am pro-choice but I believe that choice is available to women or, for that matter, anybody else in our community only when they know what that choice entails and what the breadth of that choice is. Being pro-choice is not about being pro-abortion. It is about being pro the right of a woman to choose whether she has an abortion or whether she does not and, if she does not, what other option she may choose. From my perspective, this is not a black-and-white issue, because choice is not black and white.

It seems that some members believe that being pro-choice is just about believing that abortion is the only option, or the only sensible option. I do not believe that. I believe very strongly that a decision by a woman to have an abortion because she believes that is her only choice is no more desirable than a decision to keep the child because she believes that is her only choice. Real choice is about having access to a full suite of information. From my perspective as a woman, women will never be truly empowered to make decisions for themselves until they have access to a full suite of information about all life choices and until they have a full suite of services to back up that full suite of information. My support for the pro-choice movement is based upon information and empowerment.

The numbers in this house on pro-life versus pro-choice, anti-abortion versus pro-abortion, whatever we want to call it, is 10 : 7. I and a number of others are in the minority in the house, according to what members campaigned on at the last election. We have to assume that no member would have fibbed in the very definite statements they made prior to the last election. That means that there is always a chance of legislation that narrows the choice of women in the area of terminations.

Mr Berry raised the issue of abortion after the last election, something that I would have assumed anybody who had been in this house for five minutes - and Mr Berry has been here for much longer than that - would not have done. I will not in any way suggest why he may have done that, but Mr Berry raised the issue, and from that moment abortion has been on the agenda in this Assembly.

Mr Quinlan: Rubbish!

MS CARNELL: Sorry, that is a true statement. I would have preferred no Bill. I would have preferred no debate on this issue because - - -

Mr Berry: You could have fixed it last week, and you did not.

MR SPEAKER: Hitherto, this debate has been heard in gentlemanly silence and indeed in ladylike silence.

Mr Berry: And with only reasonable interjections.

MR SPEAKER: No, there have been no interjections, Mr Berry, and please do not put your feet on the chairs. I would like the same opportunity for the Chief Minister to speak and be heard in silence as I am sure you would ask for, Mr Berry. I would ask all members therefore to observe this. I am not going to tolerate interjections and unruly behaviour after dinner. They did not occur prior to dinner.

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