ACT anti-abortion bill opposed

Issue 

ACT anti-abortion bill opposed

By Pat Brewer

CANBERRA — On October 27, 300 people packed into the reception room at the ACT Legislative Assembly to protest against the proposed anti-abortion bill introduced by right-wing MP Paul Osborne.

The lunchtime public meeting featured human rights lawyer Quentin Bryce, Dorothy Bloom from the Centre for Epidemiology and Joan Kirner, former premier of Victoria and convener of Emily's List, a group promoting the election of women on a pro-choice, pro-equity and pro-child-care platform.

The meeting was jointly presented by ACT Family Planning, Women's Centre for Health Matters, ACT Pro-Choice and the ACT and Region Women's Legal Centre. It was hosted by Greens MP Kerrie Tucker, Labor MP Wayne Berry and the ACT minister for health and independent MP, Michael Moore.

The speakers condemned the extremely restrictive bill, which would restrict abortion to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, under strict medical conditions. If would give the ACT the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. Access would be reduced by 98%.

Speakers defended the capacity of women to make informed and responsible decisions about their reproductive lives without interference by the state. They urged that the bill be defeated without amendment.

Quentin Bryce argued that women's control of their fertility is a basic human right. Osborne's bill violates the UN Declaration of Human Rights and international statutes to which the Australian government is a signatory.

Dorothy Bloom referred to the recent murder of a doctor by right-wing "pro-life" extremists in New York. She argued that the Osborne bill represented the views of a religious minority that contradicted the values of a secular state in which religious and cultural difference were recognised.

Bloom said that abortion was a health issue. Lawful, accessible abortion was safer than pregnancy and many other medical procedures. If abortion was again severely restricted, that would drive it underground and result in deaths and injuries.

Bloom's speech reinforced a letter read to the meeting from Hazel Hawke, in which she outlined the risks she faced when she sought an abortion when the procedure was illegal, dangerous and expensive.

Joan Kirner called for the bill to be rejected without amendment. She said that if the ACT wished to change existing access to abortion, it should look to the Western Australian legislation passed earlier this year as a model.