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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2526 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

Let me outline two examples, based on real incidents, where sections 45 and 46 are most important. My first example is of a woman who is 38 weeks pregnant. Estranged from her partner, she is enjoying a normal pregnancy. Whilst she is looking forward to the birth, and has already established a strong bond with her unborn child, her partner wants to move on and does not want to be a "paternal" father.

After she breaks up with him, due to ongoing abuse, he wants her to have an abortion, but she adamantly refuses. One evening, he follows her and confronts her. He is so angry that he proceeds to punch her continuously in the stomach-this is based on a real incident-in a last attempt to try to rid himself of the trouble of being a "paternal" father.

The continuous punching causes the baby to die, and the woman proceeds to have a very painful miscarriage-or, in medical terms, an abortion. Whilst she suffers no long-term physical side-effects, naturally, she suffers from long-term mental trauma.

Mr Deputy Speaker, under section 45 of the Crimes Act, current legislation acknowledges that her partner has acted criminally. He is able to be charged and prosecuted for the death of the unborn child, as well as for the assault on the woman. Under Mr Berry's proposals, he would be charged only with assault.

As legislators, we have an obligation to protect the unborn child under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, which states inter alia:

... the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.

Another place where this legislation acts as a protection to the community-to the woman and her baby-is when a hospital or clinic board has made a decision which is not considered acceptable to the community. For example, if a medical decision is made to allow a teenager to have a late-term abortion at 38 weeks-for the first part of her pregnancy, she has been prepared to become a mother and, only in recent days, has been coerced by her pushy father, or others, to go through this painful late-term procedure so that she will not shame the family-under current legislation, the judiciary would have reasonable grounds to enforce section 45 or section 46. Removing this legislation is not a forward step towards protecting women's rights, it is a backward step.

Legal precedent has shown that prosecutions have not taken place for normal abortions, and I have absolute faith that the judiciary is not about to contemplate allowing such cases. I urge the members of this Assembly to vote against Mr Berry's Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Bill, which changes the Crimes Act to the detriment of legislative protection.

Mr Deputy Speaker, Mr Berry's second bill-the Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Repeal Bill 2001-also concerns me. The Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act 1998 has positive objections which are by no means anti-choice. On the contrary, this act helps to ensure that women are provided with balanced information and medical advice.

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