Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2629 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
If you look at the counselling that I read out before about the questions that are asked and the things that are considered, you will find, from memory, that coercion was actually mentioned there. If you have good counselling, and I believe we do from my visits to the clinic and the information provided, that is being dealt with. I think that this provision is very dangerous and I do not think that we would want to see a law like it supported in the Assembly. We could live to regret it.
MR PRATT (11.05): Mr Deputy Speaker, I am going to speak in support of this bill and I am going to focus on only one element of this debate right now. The Chief Minister and Ms Tucker seem to have entirely missed the point or do not understand what coercion means. Coercion clearly means an adult, by force to control, forcing perhaps a minor to have an abortion because the pregnancy is unwanted. Is that not clear? Why should we not have a provision in law which protects people in those circumstances?
Mr Stanhope: That is your interpretation. We do not accept that interpretation.
MR PRATT: Get a dictionary, Chief Minister.
MR SMYTH (11.06): I will take Mr Pratt's advice and provide the dictionary definition. The Oxford Dictionary says that coercion is controlling a voluntary action by force; it is forcing someone to have an abortion. I think that should be banned by law and I think that it should attract a heavy penalty.
MRS DUNNE (11.06), in reply: It is pretty sad that the advocates of conscience, civil liberties, the right to choose and all of those things around this place cannot take on board the fact that from time to time members of the community are not able to exercise their civil liberties, their conscience or their right to choose because of the actions of other people. The Attorney-General, as a man with a law degree, knows that coercion is a term that is well established in common law and is well recognised. I spent some time with the parliamentary counsel and they had no problem with the drafting of this provision because they recognised that coercion has meaning in the law and is widely accepted in common law.
Let us go to the sorts of things that would constitute coercion. In introducing this bill, I came to this place with half a dozen case studies of women who had had abortions in circumstances which might have constituted coercion. One of the things that you have to remember is that it is not just the exercising of force on someone; it is moral persuasion, it is emotional blackmail. As I said earlier today, the news that one is pregnant is seldom cause for unalloyed rejoicing. That is seldom the case when one first hears.
Those who have taken the trouble to read Melinda Tankard Reist's book will have found case after case of women looking for emotional support in a difficult time and finding rejection, denial of responsibility and outright hostility-we have had a lot of that here today, too-and, as a result, allowing themselves to be pressured into a decision, and that is not too strong a term, that they have regretted later in their lives. Their self-esteem is often at a point where they would rather be dead, and a number of them have attempted suicide.