Page 3801 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008
he opposes abortion, I believe it is appropriate for us to revisit this issue. If the Leader of the Opposition wishes to raise the topic of a woman’s right to choose, then I believe all members of this Assembly should have the right to speak to the issue on the record. We are, after all, representing our constituency and I believe they have the right to know where we all stand.
First, I would like to revisit several of the members’ views set out in the 2002 debate in order to set a context for the current members as to how this Assembly came to make the important decision to support progressive reform by allowing a woman’s right to choose. Before I do that, I would like to remind all members that while I was not an elected member of the Assembly at the time of that debate I personally wrote to each member asking them to support Mr Berry’s proposal. As a proud member of this Assembly, I have supported and will continue to support progressive law reform that ensures women maintain their civil liberty of a right to choose. I have held a long interest in this matter and I would have liked to have actively contributed to the previous debate in 2002.
I believe strongly in this Assembly and self-government for the ACT and I believe strongly that it is our position, as elected members and legislators, to ensure that law, whether it is in relation to human rights, stem cell research or a woman’s right to choose, must be current and reflect the views of the community we represent.
I would like to elaborate on that point of progressive law reform for just a moment. I believe that, while having this debate, we should first acknowledge this Assembly’s other progressive reforms. Apart from the Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Bill 2001 and the subsequent bills that supported the decriminalisation of abortion in the ACT, this Assembly has supported Australia’s first Human Rights Act, enshrining in law key international standards of human rights.
Industrial manslaughter was another example of progressive law reform that the ACT was the first to legislate on. Granted, these bills are not as riddled with controversy as the pro-choice debate or even the euthanasia issue; however, they are equally important in terms of their impact on society and as progressive law reform.
Furthermore, the ACT also passed law in relation to stem cell research, the Human Cloning and Embryo Research Amendment Act 2008, which ensures that the ACT has a nationally consistent approach to research involving human cloning and embryonic research. This Assembly also passed progressive laws in relation to civil unions. And the list goes on.
Dr Foskey did mention, in the recent Human Cloning and Embryo Research Amendment Bill 2008 debate, that she thought that none of us here in this Assembly were qualified to provide an effective contribution to the issue without relying on sound advice from experts. I agree with Dr Foskey, and I believe it complements your statement, Mr Speaker, when you gave your description of our duty as members, as outlined in the 2002 debate on the Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) 2001. Mr Speaker, you proclaimed:
We as legislators have to accept that it is our responsibility to make good law, we cannot sit idly by and ignore bad law because it is controversial.