Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020

Extracted from Hansard - House of Assembly 16 February 2021

I rise to make a contribution on the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, mostly out of respect for the large number of my constituents who have made the immense effort to fill in my survey and questionnaire as well as those who have met with me—church leaders, community groups, constituents—and those who have rung and emailed my office. In particular, I would like to note that 951 constituents from the Adelaide electorate took the time to fill in my 10-question survey. I am truly grateful for their comments and their time towards our democratic process.

The overall statistics from those who completed the survey were 699 (74 per cent) in favour of the bill as it stands and 252 (26 per cent) against. That does not mean I do not believe there could be further improvements, and there are concerns that have been raised with different issues. I would like to put on the record just some of the direct comments that have been made to give the house a bit of an idea of the variations of comments that have been coming through.

To quote, 'Contraception, education and counselling should be discussed and prioritised above amending the existing process to terminate a pregnancy.' So I am very interested in a possible amendment to ensure that information is provided at the consultation time when people seek advice. Another of my constituents said, 'As a primary school teacher, I have seen firsthand how some parents struggle with that extra mouth to feed, and the whole family, including already born children, can be negatively impacted by the birth of an additional, unwanted child.'

Another constituent said, 'The law should support women to make a decision in a safe way, providing information, emotional and medical support where needed, but not bringing judgement or opinion to the table.' Representative of many people, another constituent conveyed how very thankful they are for the opportunity to have their views heard and for our country's democratic process that is available to them. To quote parts of another constituent's long contribution:

I have a belief that life starts at conception…Therefore, abortion at any stage is, in my opinion, terminating a life…I have counselled a number of women who have presented with general guilt and associated depression as a result of having an abortion.

That is another reason why I am considering an amendment. I have one drafted. That requires information to be given to a woman when she is making a decision.

As a member of parliament, many people share very personal stories, and it is a great honour for people to trust us with that information. I had one very personal meeting with a woman who indicated to me that she was married and already had two children. She had a job, she was fully capable of making a decision and she made a decision to terminate a pregnancy. She was not given any alternative information, or any information about possible mental health effects or physical health effects, and she went ahead with the termination. For years now she has lived every day feeling guilty about that decision, and she implored me to ensure that information is given when a woman goes in for a consultation with a doctor.

Another constituent expressed their thanks for the opportunity to comment. There are hundreds and hundreds of comments. Another comment was, 'Make adoption better/easier so that females who are pregnant in situations that are not tenable, to see adoption as a third option.' Many in this house would be aware that adoption is something for which I have been strongly advocating. It is an amendment that will be discussed and debated in the Children and Young People (Safety) Act, which should be coming to the house in March. It has already been tabled. That is an opportunity to give people hope that, if they are unable to care for the child, there are other families who would love the opportunity to have a child of their own. To quote another constituent:

The proper provision of information should be mandated as abortion trauma is increased if full information is not provided.

Another constituent states:

I am a medical practitioner and am quite concerned about the proposed bill, particularly in regards to the right to conscientiously object. Conscientious objection by its very definition should not include referring a patient to someone who will perform the procedure.

Overall, there are general areas of concern for people in my electorate, noting again that 74 per cent are in favour of the bill as it stands, but I do believe that you can always improve something. There are some amendments that have been tabled that I am considering supporting. One of those is to do with a failed abortion, particularly a late-term abortion where a baby is viable. Medical support should be made available to that baby so that it can live. With improved adoption laws, that baby would have a chance of having a family.

I am against sex selection, so that is an amendment that I am looking at supporting. The conscientious objection amendments also look like they would satisfy some of the extra concerns of people in my electorate. I am told that the anaesthesia used in medical abortion for late term, which was one of the recommendations by several of my constituents, is more a medical practice procedure than a statutory law change requirement, so I will look at how we can let that be known to the AMA.

The psychosocial reasons used for late-term abortions in Victoria certainly have been of concern to several of my constituents. I think there are amendments already tabled that might help in that area, particularly for a late-term abortion. So the provision of information, I think, is important, and making sure that this does go through to the opportunity to debate clause by clause and consider all the amendments so that we can make the required changes, because I think the highest agreement is the fact that the abortion law should be in the health act, and it should not be illegal. So, that is all for today.