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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1595 ..

Wednesday, 15 May 2002

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed.)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Medical Practitioners (Maternal Health) Amendment Bill 2002

Ms Gallagher , pursuant to notice, presented the bill.

Title read by Clerk.

MS GALLAGHER (10.34): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, I present this bill today to address concerns that have been raised about the status of abortion procedure if the Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act is repealed.

Particular concern has been expressed regarding protection for women seeking abortions in terms of who is qualified to perform the procedure and where it is appropriate for the procedure to be carried out. Concern has also been raised in relation to the option for a medical professional not to perform or take part in an abortion procedure if she or he has moral or ethical concerns.

I am seeking to ensure that these concerns are allayed for women seeking abortions and for medical staff who perform abortions or for those who choose not to perform them. My amendments to the Medical Practitioners Act address these concerns by inserting a part 4B, "Abortions", into the act.

Section 55B proposed by this amendment bill explicitly states that an abortion can be performed only by a registered medical practitioner, while proposed section 55C requires that abortion can be carried out only in an approved medical facility. Proposed section 55E then specifically legislates for medical professionals to have the ability not to assist in a termination procedure. Proposed section 55A defines abortion for the act, and proposed section 55D addresses how a facility is approved.

These amendments will have minimal impact on the Medical Practitioners Act, as they only seek to explicitly legislate for what is already impliedly covered by the act. The inclusion of these amendments in the Medical Practitioners Act provides for abortion to be treated like any other medical procedure, while at the same time addressing the concerns of those who feel that repealing the Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act would leave women and medical professionals without the protection they deserve.

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