Page 3853 - Week 12 - Thursday, 29 October 2015

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As I said, this bill strikes the right balance. This type of legislation is already in effect in Tasmania and I understand it is being considered in Victoria as well. Ultimately this bill is designed to protect members of the community from unwanted attention that can impede access to a legal health service. Protests can be peaceful and still be intimidating. I believe this is the least restrictive means possible of achieving the purpose of protecting patient privacy and the right to access medical services.

I thank those people who have emailed me and come to see me from both sides of the debate about this. I believe it is better to make representations to me and to my colleagues in this place than to do so towards women seeking to use a legal health service who should not have to bear the burden of being at the forefront of the abortion debate.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Capital Metro) (12.09): As my colleague Ms Fitzharris has already indicated, the Labor members of the government will be supporting this bill today. We do so as a government that is committed to the principle of equitable access to safe and legal health care for all Canberrans.

We are, of course, aware that some people have been experiencing intimidation and feelings of harassment when accessing buildings that deliver sexual and reproductive health services, including termination of pregnancy services. These services, generally referred to as abortion services, are, of course, legal in our community when carried out by a registered doctor in an approved medical facility. It is the view of the Labor members of the government that all citizens should be able to engage in legal individual activity without the potential for intimidation or harassment.

Access to legal and safe health services is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of Australians. The Australian healthcare system is underpinned by principles of fair and equal access to health services that give all the opportunity for equal health outcomes. This view is reflected internationally. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women has called on all member states, including Australia, to ensure that health services are consistent with the human rights of women. These include the rights to autonomy, privacy, confidential, informed consent and choice.

Similarly, article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and article 12 of the Convention for Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women provide that parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of health care in order to ensure, on the basis of equality of men and women, access to health care services, including those related to family planning. An activity that targets an individual outside a building from which a legal health service is being delivered, an activity that can cause feelings of intimidation or harassment for people accessing that service, only serves to minimise and erode these human rights and potentially limits access to that health service for some women.

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