Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2576 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
I believe that to remove this regulation-by removing the things that are put before women seeking an abortion-is to weaken the fabric of our society. We do this by reducing an unwanted foetus to the bundle of cells that people so carelessly speak about. I put the challenge again: tell me where life begins, and tell me how you know that, with the certainty that allows you to pass these laws and repeal this bill. (Extension of time granted.)
Tell me how you can repeal this bill with such certainty, and tell me that you know it will do no harm. The evidence before me may or may not be proven, but I believe much of it is proven. I believe much of it is indicative, and that more work needs to be done. Tell me how, with a clear conscience, you can say, "Let's give less information because abortion is okay-it is only a bundle of cells."
Mr Deputy Speaker, it is not a bundle of cells until somebody proves otherwise. I believe a life begins at conception. I believe that most of the chemical reaction which takes place is over by about six days. Much of the reading I have done says that all the things that need to be in place to say that that little bundle of cells is a human being have occurred by 14 days. It would appear that the 14th day is the last opportunity for it to divide into twins. So from 14 days onwards we have a life with its own human nature-its own personhood. I would like to know: Where is the evidence to say that it can occur somewhere down the track?
This evidence needs to be put before women considering an abortion. It is a convenience for them-it makes it easier for them, when they have a document that gives them information and shows the pro side and the against side. What are we afraid of? What are we as a society afraid of that stops us helping people, at a vulnerable time, by providing them with information in a reasonable form? What we are afraid of is the truth-that life begins at conception.
MR PRATT (5.42): Mr Deputy Speaker, I have concerns with Mr Berry's second bill-the Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Repeal Bill 2001. It certainly concerns me.
The Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act 1998 has positive objectives 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, and that they are protected from making hasty, emotive decisions which they may soon after regret.
The maternal health act provides women with the ability to access information which is independent of the information provided by the abortion clinic, including basic information on the unborn child and the risks and possible side effects of the abortion operation. It ensures that women are given a minimum amount and standard of information about what abortion involves-not just a one-sided medical opinion.
The current legislation provides women with a compulsory cooling-off period of 72 hours. This allows time for counselling and time to think about the important issues surrounding what is often an emotional decision. It provides women with a chance to have genuine choice, based upon relevant, independent, material being made available, and allows time for them to weigh up all the options. To quote a letter I received recently from Archbishop Carroll, the key phrase in that letter states: