Page 3856 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

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of time discussing it, that staff were staying back and that there were many issues that were far more important than this. Mr Mulcahy was not here when thousands and thousands of people gathered outside this Assembly in support of the legal framework which currently exists—thousands. It would have been the biggest rally that this Assembly has ever seen, in fact.

We were able, through the votes of individual members, to create a legal framework which provided, I think, the most supportive regulations on termination of pregnancy that exist across the country. I was very proud to follow your lead, Mr Speaker, and be a part of that experience. I know it was a highly charged time in this Assembly but ultimately the legal framework which currently exists came into force and is commonly accepted as a very safe, protective and supportive framework for women who are seeking a termination and for medical practitioners who provide that service.

If we go back to where we were before that and, as a woman, travel through the journey of what it was like under the arrangements—and this is in addition to the decriminalisation; decriminalisation is one issue—we note the support of those opposite for not reintroducing criminal sanctions in relation to termination of pregnancy. But it was not just the criminalisation of the matter; it was much more than that. It was on, I think, the rather cutely named Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information Act) 1998. For a woman who was seeking a termination of pregnancy, a whole range of steps had to be carried out before she was able to proceed.

To begin with, a medical practitioner would have to provide a woman with a whole range of advice about the medical risks of termination of pregnancy and carrying the pregnancy to term and a whole range of other criteria underneath that. They would have to offer—this, under law—the woman the opportunity of referral to appropriate and adequate counselling. Obviously, under law, we would force women to undergo appropriate and adequate counselling.

We would then provide women with information that was approved under section 14 (2) of the legislation. We would then kindly not charge for the provision of that information. Once all of that had been provided—adequate referrals and advice, information—then there would be a joint declaration made between the medical practitioner and the woman and the woman would have to leave for a cooling-off period of not less than 72 hours after making that written declaration with her medical practitioner. This is what a woman would go through: patronising, condescending legislation telling her how she could make decisions about her own body.

Then you go to the information that is provided. In regard to foetal development—and this information has been approved under the maternal health information regulations—this information would be provided to women at perhaps the most stressful, emotional point in their life. Women would then be made to view, consider and receive counselling on pictures of foetuses, including a description of how big the foetus is and at what stage its development was. For example, the heart has been beating for two weeks and limbs are beginning to develop at six weeks. It goes on through the eight weeks, through the 10 weeks and onto the 12 weeks, 14 weeks and 16 weeks. At 12 weeks, the foetus is about eight to nine centimetres from head to rump and weighs 45 grams. The foetus is able to swallow and the kidneys are able to make urine. Tests will be able to tell whether it is a girl or boy.

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