Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 9 Hansard (2 September) . . Page.. 2822 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
We have here a number of men and one woman deciding that one particular aspect of the information is so important that it must be forced on a woman. The point is that it is not relevant to any particular individual that that is the most critical piece of information. It is imposing on women the view of people in this place on what is full information. I know that there are very many other factors that a woman has to take into account - endless variations of factors for any woman at any given time in making this very difficult decision.
The inference is that such a woman would not have the ability to find information to support her decision, that she would not understand enough about the decision to know what she needs to find out, so nine members of this place will decide for that woman what she has to know. That is being totally paternalistic and is totally insulting. I would like to know why they bothered to pass legislation in this place delegating power to an expert panel if they feel that they can override the view of that panel when it does not suit their particular agenda.
When we debated this legislation last, I heard it said ad nauseam that it was not a Bill about restricting a woman's right to choose and it was not a Bill that would stop all abortions; it was only a Bill to provide information to women so that they could make a full and informed decision. What we are seeing, as I have already said, is that it is about telling women that having particular information is necessary and it is not up to a woman to make the decision on that; it is up to members of this parliament. It is not up to the expert panel which has regard for the mental health of women; it is up to people in this place who have no idea at all about the medical consequences of the decision but who feel, for some bizarre reason, that they have the right.
I noticed in the Canberra Times that concern was expressed by the Women's Health Centre about the accuracy of the information and asked my office to follow it up. Three textbooks put a very different interpretation on the weight of foetuses at particular ages. For the information of members, I will draw attention to the variations in the textbooks. Of particular interest is that there is one consistent thread throughout all the weights that are given in the Government's regulations and the other members' regulations, that is, that the weights are much greater than in any text that we have been able to find. I did ask a medical practitioner why that could be and he suggested that it could be because the weights that are put in the pamphlet next to the pictures are of the conception as a whole, that is, it includes the amniotic fluid. (Extension of time granted) That would explain why it is so much greater.
For the information of members, I will give the various weights. In the Maternal Health Information Regulations the weight of a foetus at the age of eight weeks is 15 grams. In Current Obstetrics and Gynaecologic Diagnosis and Treatment it is one gram - one gram against 15 grams in the pamphlet for the weight at eight weeks. In Pregnancy: Everything you need to know it is five grams. In The Textbook for Midwives it is four grams. There is a range there of one gram to five grams. However, it is nowhere near 15 grams.