Page 3843 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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Worldwide, about a third of all the maternal deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth are due to unsafe abortions. The risk of death faced by a woman who resorts to an illegal or unsafe abortion is up to 500 times greater than the risk faced by a woman in a jurisdiction such as ours where abortion is no business of the criminal law.

That brings us to the assurances Canberrans may feel that they are entitled to get from those opposite. Do those opposite, in particular the Liberal leader, believe that abortion should be, as it is now, subject to regulations that ensure that it is performed by qualified medical practitioners under controlled conditions? Do they believe, in short, that the appropriate controls our community should impose are those that ensure, as far as such things can be guaranteed, the health of the woman? Or do they believe that abortion should again become the province of the criminal law, a matter for moral judgement rather than medical competence?

In those parts of the world where abortion is illegal, abortion still occurs. It is just that it involves a far greater risk of death or lasting injury to the woman and far less control over the abortionist. Where, under such circumstances, is the informed consent? Where is the follow-up care and counselling, including contraceptive counselling?

I believe the approach that we take to abortion here in the territory is one that respects a woman’s power to decide for herself but supports her as she reaches a decision. It is an approach that encourages informed and appropriate use of contraception. It is an approached based on the premise that information is empowering and that realistic and reliable information about reproduction is the best protection anyone can have against unwanted pregnancy.

I hope that as an Assembly we can reaffirm today the position adopted in this chamber in 2002 when we decided that abortion was no business of the criminal law.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (9:14): I think it is time a woman got up and spoke in favour of the motion. So far, two women have spoken, I think. I have not heard everybody; maybe I missed somebody. It does make me uncomfortable when I hear women who argue strongly against the right of other women to choose what happens to their body.

For a little while there, I was wondering whether it makes me feel uncomfortable when men speak on women’s rights in the way they seemed to be doing when I was down here before. Then I remembered something. One of the debates that I have become very involved in, off and on, over the years—less so since I have been in this place—is the issue of population growth. That is always the touchstone in the environment movement, because there are many who argue that we have too many people in the world.

This is an issue that I wanted to examine. If we have too many people and we decide that we must do something about that, who are the targets of those policies? Of course, women are the targets of those policies. For many years during the 1960s and the 1970s, we saw women in the Third World whose bodies were used as experimental bases for contraception; there is no way that a feminist could approve of that.

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