Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2525 ..
MRS DUNNE (continuing):
Mr Deputy Speaker, it has been claimed that the debate about the provisions in the Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act for a cooling-off period for informed consent is without effect. However, I believe these figures show that it is more than a mere annoyance. I really believe it is insulting to use the terminology of the pro-abortion lobbyists, who say it is an insult to their intelligence. It is not an insult to the intelligence of a woman to be told of the risks she faces with abortion, to see if those risks are significant for her, and to be given some time to contemplate them.
I pose a question for those who run the argument. If these provisions are without effect, why did abortion numbers in the ACT fall by 15 per cent in 1999-2000, and by a further 12 per cent in 2000-2001-all of this, with no change to the legal status of abortion, its funding or its availability? Does this suggest to you that you are dealing with a group of people who have made up their minds in advance, with absolute certainty? The letter from Katherine in the Canberra Times today shows that she had not made up her mind.
Surely those who argue that abortion should be safe, legal and rare should consider this as a basis for rejoicing, but I see that Mr Berry does not. Surely, they should at least think twice before claiming that giving information to women seeking abortion, and time to think, will make no difference to the outcome. This legislation will stop the cooling-off period, the provision of information and, in the end, Mr Deputy Speaker, it will suppress the evidence of what will happen.
MR PRATT (12.23): Mr Deputy Speaker, my remarks relate to the three bills being discussed. My comments on Mrs Dunne's proposed bill will be dealt with later. It is easy to get caught up in the emotion of this debate. However, we are legislators, and I urge that we take a step back from the emotional arguments being presented on both sides of the debate.
These bills have little to do with whether we are for or against abortion. They have to do with ensuring that we make and keep good legislation designed to protect all of those for whom we legislate. This is why I am against the changes which both Mr Berry and Ms Gallagher have presented. I see them as emotive, backward steps which substitute important protective legislation with ideology. As law-makers, we have the obligation to make and change laws which will protect those whom we represent-not to force our ideology down people's throats.
I would firstly like to address the problems I have with the Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Bill 2001, as proposed by Mr Berry. The Crimes Act, as it stands, gives necessary and legal protection to a pregnant woman and her unborn child. The three sections which Mr Berry wishes us to abolish-sections 44 through to 46-stand as the only protection of these two individuals. Section 44 of the Crimes Act ensures that a pregnant woman does not reach harm by her own hand. It acts as a deterrent to a woman who seeks the desperate measure of providing herself with an abortion.
The deletion of sections 45 and 46 of the Crimes Act is what perturbs me most as a legislator. Mr Berry seeks to delete the only legislation which protects an unborn child, right up until the point of birth. He has not proposed to replace this legislation, and this will leave a remarkable hole in protective legislation. That is why no other jurisdiction has sought to make such deletions.