Page 1389 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 6 April 2005

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Wednesday, 6 April 2005

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Crimes Amendment Bill 2005

Mr Pratt, pursuant to notice, presented the bill.

Title read by Clerk.

MR PRATT (Brindabella) (10.31): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, there are loopholes in present law and specifically in the crimes act that continue to allow the injury, manslaughter, unlawful killing or murder of an unborn child during an assault on its mother to go unpunished.

The decriminalisation of abortion did not recognise and defend the provision in the legislation that made it possible to hold an assailant responsible for the loss of an unborn child. For example, if a mugger assaults a pregnant woman and the child is injured or killed as a result, should someone not be held accountable? And if a person recklessly assaults their pregnant partner, leading to injury or death of the child, should someone not be held accountable? And should not someone be held accountable as a result of culpable driving for the killing or injury of an unborn child just as much as if a child were already born?

There are a number of key features in the Crimes Amendment Bill 2005 that make it very clear that lawful abortions in the ACT are recognised and sanctioned in the provisions of this bill. However, it does not allow reckless or knowing assaults on pregnant women to be sanctioned. In addition, it does not allow criminal offences against pregnant women, whether they be reckless or not, to be sanctioned.

The bill does not go against the Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Act 2002. I say again: this bill does not act against the Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Act 2002. This bill clearly excludes lawful abortions and enshrines the acknowledgment of lawful abortions in the crimes act. In addition, the bill also provides that it does not apply to anything done by a pregnant woman in relation to her unborn child. These are the two vital elements deliberately designed to separate the issues surrounding this bill from issues surrounding the abortion debate. I cannot make that point too clear.

This bill is not an attempt to revisit or to undermine the decisions made by this Assembly in relation to abortion. Abortion laws in all other jurisdictions provide precautionary legislation that covers the protection of unborn children to a certain degree. Those degrees vary from state to state. But there are laws in other jurisdictions that provide at least some precautionary protection, but we do not have that here in the ACT.

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