Page 780 - Week 03 - Wednesday, 21 March 2018

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MR WALL (Brindabella) (10.03): Madam Speaker, could I move that all advice and correspondence relating to my letter and the matter be tabled in the Assembly today by lunchtime, please?

MADAM SPEAKER: I have tabled the letter. This is the advice.

MR WALL: Could you table the formal advice that you have received?

MADAM SPEAKER: I will consider that; I will check with the Clerk. I am happy to provide it.

Health (Improving Abortion Access) Amendment Bill 2018

Ms Le Couteur, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (10.04): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

I am enthusiastic about the fact that it is now over 15 years since abortion was made legal and removed from the Crimes Act in the ACT. That was a truly celebratory moment in the history of the Assembly. This bill was also introduced as a private member’s bill by Wayne Berry, who was—is—a strong and consistent advocate for abortion law reform. He said at the time, “It is a fundamental right of women to control their own bodies without being overshadowed by outdated legislation based on the 19th century concept of ownership of women by men.” His legislation subsequently passed in 2002. It was, of course, supported by my Greens predecessor Ms Kerrie Tucker. The Greens have always stood up proudly for women’s reproductive rights. This bill is another step on the journey.

Fifteen years ago the ACT led the way, but now medical practices have changed and the ACT has just not kept up with the times. In all other Australian jurisdictions, with the exception of South Australia, medical abortions or medical terminations are accessible without the need to visit a specified clinic. In the ACT, due to the way our legislation is written, they are only legal in abortion clinics approved by the minister. The ACT has only two of these: the Marie Stopes clinic and the Canberra Hospital.

This leads me to the most recent abortion-related legislation in the ACT. In 2016 my colleague Minister Rattenbury legislated to ensure that consumers accessing the private Marie Stopes abortion clinic in the ACT could do so without fear of discrimination or harassment by the establishment of protester exclusion zones. Madam Speaker, there is still work to be done to improve access to abortions in the ACT and to take advantage of improvements in medical technology. If passed, my Health (Improving Abortion Access) Amendment Bill 2018 will make medical abortions available to women across the ACT, thus improving access for Canberrans seeking to exercise their reproductive rights.

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