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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2582 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

legislation to outlaw female genital mutilation-also known as female circumcision. Members had no problem on that occasion legislating with regard to the decisions that women make about their own bodies. It appears that this is a very flexible principle with respect to such matters.

The passage of this legislation back in 1998 was quite controversial. It was accompanied by a great deal of histrionics, chest-beating and other dire warnings of imminent disaster. One of the claims made about this act was that, if it was passed, it would end abortions in the ACT-they would cease within a few weeks. The claim was made, Mr Berry, and that dire warning was never fulfilled.

This legislation has not preventedleave this word women who have genuinely and clearly wanted to have an abortion from obtaining a termination. What it may have done is provide some women with a fuller set of information which I believe may well have led, in a number of cases, to those women making decisions which resulted in their not having abortions.

If Mr Berry is serious about his claim that he wants abortion to be rare, then putting a full picture before the women of this community is an essential ingredient in that exercise. You cannot possibly hope to educate people about the consequences of their decisions if the one vehicle for that education, which would ensure that every woman contemplating such a decision receives educative material, is removed. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. If we are serious about providing people with the right information, and the fullest information, then we have no choice but to leave this legislation in place.

The content of the information is not the issue. If members of this place are dissatisfied with certain things that have previously appeared within that information, then they use their power-their numbers in this place-to ensure that that information is not provided. Without the power to mandate the provision of the information, nothing need reach women in those circumstances-nothing whatsoever.

The next time a woman in this territory is in the position of regretting a decision to have an abortion, in circumstances where she has not been provided with adequate information, we need to ask ourselves whether, because of a decision we might make tonight to remove the power to put that information before women in those circumstances, we have let such a person down.

MRS DUNNE (6.08): Why are the members of this place afraid of an informed woman? Why are you, Mr Berry, afraid of informing women?

Mr Berry: I am not, at all.

MRS DUNNE: You are. Why are you afraid of three little postage-stamp-sized pictures? That is what it boiled down to. As Mr Humphries has said, the content of that publication could have been changed at any time, had you wanted to change it.

Why are you so afraid, that you will take away the rights of ACT women to look at it if they wish to? Why are you so afraid, that you are not prepared to tell the 18-year-old girls who go down to that clinic that, if they have an abortion, by the age of 45 they will probably have breast cancer?

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