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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 August 2017) . . Page.. 2344 ..

control over their bodies, and we still have to defend decisions about whether it is okay to acknowledge the work of women activists who have gone before us. I am referring to the women who have made significant gains for girls and women in our community, and whether it is okay to name a street after them.

At the same time as abortion was removed as a crime, my father and Katy Gallagher repealed the Health Regulation (Maternal Health Information) Act. You might remember the Osborne bills, which required women to view unborn foetuses before they were permitted to proceed to consent to an abortion. At this time, the health panel which was set up under the act was unanimous in recommending against the use of pictures, due to its being “irrelevant” and in some cases “counter-productive and could cloud the issues”.

This act also required a woman to wait 72 hours before undergoing a termination, which my father labelled as one of the most offensive provisions in the act. He stated that it was utterly false to presume that women come to these important decisions in a vacuum. In that debate, former MLA Bill Stefaniak said that if my father’s bills were successful the ACT would again be a “social laboratory”. If ensuring that women have access to decisions about their own lives and their bodies means that we are a social laboratory, then let that be the case.

Former Greens Party MLA Kerrie Tucker asserted that the bills would “make abortions safer, less fraught with guilt, blame and harassment—and remove a possible criminal sanction.” She went on to say: “Abortion is a last-stop option for women to have some control over their own fertility. It is the last-stop option for a woman who is pregnant and who, for personal reasons, is not in a position to bring a child into the world.”

When I look back at the debates on the day that my father’s bills succeeded, I see a group of MLAs—the majority of them men—grappling with the issues of conscience over how women should live their lives. I am glad that in some ways we have moved on from that time and that most of us can just get on with our lives.

Fast forward to 2015 and the issue of anti-choice protestors filming and handing out material to women as they were entering the clinic in Civic. This came to a head with the decision to enforce exclusionary zones through legislation. It was acknowledged that everyone has the right to protest—all of us support that. I am a very big supporter of people’s right to protest. But what was more appropriate than a protest at that place was to take the protest to this place, the Assembly, not the place where an already tough decision was being taken by a woman about an issue that is difficult and fraught already.

I support this motion, because I think that everybody in our community should be supported to make legal choices for their own needs, for their own bodies, on their own terms. It is disappointing that even today we must remain vigilant in protecting the rights of vulnerable people, particularly women. That is why women like Tara Cheyne, elected members in this place, need to continue to bring motions into this place and to continue the conversation until we have a more equal world where women and girls have rights, and continue to have rights, over their bodies.

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