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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2550 ..

MS MacDONALD (continuing):

However, I do believe in a woman's right personally to choose whether to seek a termination in her first trimester of pregnancy. I also believe that terminations should be available in the second trimester for extreme foetal abnormalities and where the woman's life is in danger if the pregnancy continues. I do not believe that the issue of a woman seeking an abortion belongs in the criminal code. I do not shy away from these beliefs. As such I will be voting yes to Mr Berry's and Ms Gallagher's bills.

Having said that, I have concerns over a number of issues that have arisen as a result of these bills. First and foremost, if these bills are passed, the first two being Mr Berry's bills, I believe that virtually nothing will change from this week to the next. I believe that this is more about getting a psychological win than practical changes. I think that is very unfortunate.

I say that for the reason that the original bill or bills which were introduced by Mr Osborne severely restricted a woman's right to choose whether to have a termination by placing impossible obstacles in the way. These proposals were defeated. Of course, they included such things as the need to seek expert medical opinions from a psychiatrist and an obstetrician when there were months and months of waiting times in Canberra. For those reasons, I say that those obstacles were impossible to overcome in terms of seeking a termination. What we did get instead of the original bills was some severely watered-down legislation. Women have still had access to a safe termination, albeit with some obstacles.

It is my belief, based on the questioning I have done, that around the same number of abortions occur in the region-in the region, not just in Canberra-as took place prior to the maternal health information regulations going through. Whilst I do believe that the maternal health information regulations are flawed and I do believe that the issue of access to safe legal abortion needed to be visited, I believe that Mr Berry's bills do nothing other than to take abortion out of the criminal code and to totally deregulate abortion. For the latter reason, I was very pleased when Ms Gallagher introduced her bill to put in place some safeguards.

On the issue of giving information to a woman, I have thought at great length about that and I agree that women should be given as much information as possible about a possible termination. I am, however, torn about the need to legislate on that. I would hope that anyone providing a medical procedure would provide as much information as possible to the person considering undertaking it. But, as I have stated, I am torn because this is not like any other medical procedure.

I believe that in all the rhetoric that many from the extreme pro-choice side espouse about a woman's right to choose we often forget that women considering termination of a pregnancy are extremely vulnerable. I do not buy the argument that we should not legislate on this medical issue. As an elected representative, I feel that we have a duty to ensure that there are no loopholes that a woman may face in considering an abortion, whether that be the very distant possibility of an unethical backyard abortionist or someone with a little bit of knowledge about which pharmaceuticals might bring on an early labour and thereby cause a woman to face physical damage through possible haemorrhaging under unsupervised conditions.

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