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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2558 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

Members, today I ask you not only to support Mr Berry's bill but to support women in the ACT. I ask you to think carefully about whether, even if you would not choose abortion for yourself or those close to you, you would send a woman who did choose an abortion, for reasons that are entirely valid to her, to jail. Any woman who has had to make that choice has been through a difficult and emotional time. Are you willing to add time in jail to that experience? I urge you to vote for Mr Berry's bill and let the women of the ACT choose for themselves.

MRS CROSS (4.25): I agonised for so long over this matter and I canvassed views from as many sources and I could, including views from lobby groups and prominent figures in the national-level debate-people who have had first-hand experience, medical practitioners and people with diverse views from different age groups and differing professional, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds. Then I tried to weigh objectively the range of views that I was presented with.

This has not been an easy decision for me, but it has been helpful to meet rational and sensible people from both sides of this debate. From that range of views, the first decision I made was to remove those that were based on dogma from both sides. Why? I know from sometimes bitter experience that when confronted with a difficult problem there are many who seek the easiest course, and the easiest course of all is to take refuge in dogma. Why is that? Dogma offers the pat solution.

But the problem is that dogma is not really a good remedy, because it has at least one very bad side effect. It is precisely because dogma is the ready-made answer that it inevitably stifles objective thought. It is incapable of taking account of views that might differ from it, so it should have no place in the consideration of a complex matter.

One other serious strike against dogma is that it is favoured by the ready bullies of society and, because of that, has often been the root cause of much of humanities grief and suffering over the ages. So to keep an open mind I had to reject the comfort of dogmatism.

Next, it was apparent to me that the very serious stigma of criminality imposed specifically for women was an offshoot from the root of the same tree of dogma. Once the stigma had been enshrined in law, the dogmatists who had for so long decided, among other things, what a woman's lot in society was to be, were able to sit back in the satisfaction that the matter had been appropriately addressed and, as far as they were concerned, put to rest.

But the dogmatists' stance on the need for the stigma of criminality to be applied has, in practice, been generally ignored by the authorities responsible for the application of laws. The provisions of the ACT Crimes Act under consideration today have never been used, and I am unsure when they were last used in any jurisdiction in Australia. The law has turned out to be a paper tiger and not worth the paper it is written on. In that case, the stigma of criminality should be removed.

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