Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2556 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
day 14. On about day 14 is normally the last opportunity that that small cluster of cells will divide and, instead of being one child, will become twins. So personhood comes at about day 14; that is when everything is in place.
The question from me to those who would vote in favour of this bill-I have asked it every time and I am yet to get an answer from anyone-is: where is the evidence that tells you, that gives you the certainty that you have, that you are not aborting a human life, that you are not destroying a human life? I do not have that certainty. It would make these debates so incredibly easy if somebody could point to where it happens, but nobody can. We do not know. If we do not know, as good legislators we must take the precautionary approach.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I finished the last debate by referring to a sign that used to be in Newtown. I will finish with it again because some members would not have heard of it. There used to be a sign on a building in Newtown that went something like this: "The greatest violation of a woman's rights is to abort her." (Extension of time granted.) We know also that the majority of foetuses around the world-and I am yet to be able to get data for Australia-is that this is actually a device used against women. Mr Deputy Speaker, the greatest violation of a woman's rights is to abort her.
MS GALLAGHER (4.20): I rise in support of Mr Berry's Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Bill. This law is now a dated reminder of the 19th century, when abortion was a far more risky procedure than it currently is and was legislated against to protect the lives of women. This is no longer the case, and we must accept that we are no longer a society that should use threats or criminal sanctions to coerce women into continuing with an unwanted pregnancy.
The criminal law is rarely about deterrence; it is more about punishment. We need to consider what the purpose of having abortion in the Crimes Act is. Is it to act as a deterrent? No-one can prove that the criminalisation of abortion has reduced the number of women seeking one, any more than anyone can prove that removing these sections from the act will result in an increase in the number of abortions being sought or performed in the ACT.
The choices available to a woman when she is facing an unwanted pregnancy are varied and often difficult to make. If at all possible, she should be able to make the most private of decisions with reference to her own circumstances, desires and values. The presence of abortion in the criminal code prohibits this, because even if the penalty is not enforced, it sends a message that abortion is not an acceptable choice.
There are some in this Assembly that argue that this is preferable, that abortion is wrong and that the message needs to be sent out to the community that abortion is not acceptable. I disagree with this. The Crimes Act should not be used to create an impression. It is a legal tool that as a society we expect to be enforced. No-one claims that sections of the Crimes Act that apply to theft are there just to send a message that stealing is wrong but that we do not expect people who steal to go to jail or get another punishment.