Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 10 Hansard (25 November) . . Page.. 3010 ..
MR STANHOPE (continuing):
As Community Advocate, I wish to draw to your attention, concerns I have about the requirement in the proposed Health Regulation Bill, for consent to be obtained from a parent of a young female under 18 seeking an abortion.
There are legal authorities coming out of case law which would call into question the efficacy of this proposal. For example, in a decision called Gillick's Case it was ruled that a child who is intelligent and mature enough to fully understand the nature and consequences of a treatment or procedure can give a valid consent.
The High Court in Marion's Case endorsed the Gillick decision and agreed that the power or role of parents to consent to medical treatment on behalf of a child diminished gradually as the child's capacities and maturity grow.
There are many risks involved in forcing a young person to seek parental consent for an abortion. These include the risk of increasing the incidence of young female suicide.
There are many families where, for religious or cultural reasons, a pregnant child would be harshly condemned, punished, or rendered homeless. It cannot be assumed that families would be supportive and accepting of the child's predicament.
There can be no assumptions about the nature of relationships between young people and their parents. There will be some situations where requiring a young person to have contact with a parent, when they are already facing a personal crisis, will result in increased trauma for the young person.
If young females are not able to choose abortion as an option, there is an added consequence for the State in that there is likely to be an increase in the need to take children ... into care. There are very strong links between the incidence of child abuse and child death, and young, single parents.
That is the advice of our Community Advocate on the initial proposal in the Bill and it applies, of course, equally as relevantly to Mr Humphries' amendment. It is interesting that the Community Advocate is a senior statutory officer responsible to the Attorney-General, who is sponsoring this amendment which contradicts absolutely and completely the advice of the Community Advocate - a statutory officer charged with responsibility for the care of young people in our community. It speaks volumes for what is going on here tonight.
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (1.48 am): Mr Speaker, I wonder whether Mr Stanhope is really quite correct there. He quite correctly says that the Community Advocate referred to Mr Osborne's original proposal, which relates to children under the age of 18. But Mr Humphries' Western Australian amendment is very different.