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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2549 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

does not mean pro-abortion. It is not about advocating abortion over birth. It is about women being able to decide for themselves. It is about options. It is about children by choice and having every pregnancy a wanted one.

We are responsible to each other for making this community one in which we can all live and which does not marginalise or criminalise women for undertaking a medical procedure-a medical procedure which is performed with care, to national standards and not without access to a variety of information and support and which is a criminal act in this country in this century. We should stand firm and fix this now.

A woman's right to choose should be hers-not mine, not the choice of another legislator, lobbyist or politician, but hers and hers alone. Let us today take the step as legislators and leaders and remove the crime of abortion from the ACT criminal code. Let us finally let women make their own decisions to consider their choices free from unnecessary fear and prosecution.

MS MacDONALD (3.51): Mr Deputy Speaker, this is the hardest speech I have had to give in my short time in this place. I do not imagine that, if the topic arises again, it will become any easier.

It is my belief that the great majority of people in our society go through life never having to think about the issue of abortion. While many in our communities have a vague opinion about the termination of a pregnancy, most never have to sit down and think about the issues in depth, let alone have a discussion or debate or vote on the matter. I do not have that luxury.

I had the thought of not saying anything today, but I believe that I have a responsibility to place my opinion on the record. I was not elected to this place to sit in silence. In the last eight months I, like everyone else in the Assembly, have received numerous letters, emails and faxes about Mr Berry's bills. I made a conscious decision not to reply to the correspondence I received on this matter, which makes it all the more important for me to speak on it so that the Canberra community can understand my reasoning on this issue.

Responding to every one of the hundreds of individual questions and viewpoints is an impossible task. I cannot satisfy every person's desire to have their view expressed because, quite simply, there is no compromise or middle ground on this issue. I hope that the Canberra community will understand that I have put many hours of research into the emotional and complex issues surrounding this debate and I do not cast a vote in the Assembly lightly. Meeting with representatives of all interest groups and medical and legal professionals has given me an appreciation of the views of the public which I do not believe can be rivalled in this place.

I believe that the issue of abortion and a woman's right to choose stir up emotions like no other issue on both sides of the argument and I do not argue with people on either side that feel deeply and passionately about this issue. I know that many people will choose not to vote for me and other candidates on the basis of the vote on this one single issue. That will be the case whether you are pro-choice or pro-life.

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