Procurement Of Miscarriage Limitation Bill
PROCUREMENT OF MISCARRIAGE LIMITATION BILL
Debate resumed from 31st October.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH [5.51]: Some weeks ago in the debate on this legislation I stated that this bill was not a bill about abortion as such, though that is clearly its intent. The Hon. Elaine Nile stated, "It is an abortion bill". The bill is in fact about seeking to limit what is at present a legal activity in this State under certain limited circumstances, abortion, to public institutions. However strongly one may feel about abortion, the bill involves a fundamental principle. That principle is, as I mentioned previously, whether the end justifies the means. I must state that I cannot accept that belief. While I am speaking about fundamental principles, I should remind the House that a number of my female colleagues deliberately absented themselves from the House during the second reading speech of the Hon. Elaine Nile. For most of that time I was the only female member in the Chamber. For me that involved another fundamental principle, the principle of freedom of speech. I am reminded of the statement that is commonly attributed to Voltaire. That statement was, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it".
Whether or not there is opposition to what any member is proposing to this Chamber, I have a problem with denying that member a quorum when the House has agreed to hear debate on the issue. To remove a quorum from the Hon. Elaine Nile would be a violation of the principle of freedom of speech, a violation I could not support. The legislation before the House involves another problem and that is, of course, the law of unintended consequences. There is a real possibility that this legislation, rather than achieving what it sets out to achieve, may have a consequence that is unintended and counter-productive. Public hospitals have waiting lists for many kinds of surgery. If abortions are to be limited to public hospitals, it is possible that this would lead to waiting lists for yet another medical procedure. The notion of waiting lists for abortions is particularly repugnant to me. The later an abortion is performed, the greater the risk of complications. I would infinitely prefer not to see waiting lists for abortions, and that is a possible counter-productive consequence of this bill.
It has been mentioned in this debate that South Australia and the Australian
Capital Territory have experienced a substantial decrease in abortions since introducing legislation similar to the bill before the House. I appreciate the belief of honourable members that that is due directly to people having fewer abortions, but that is not necessarily the only reason for the decrease. Indeed, it may be that many abortions that were previously performed in South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory are now being performed in New South Wales and other States where abortions are easier to obtain. If that is so, the issue is not merely one of abortions but abortions for the wealthy and not for the poor. That leads to another social concern. Those who can afford an air ticket to New South Wales are able to have an abortion and those who cannot are unable to. If a service is legally available, it should be legally available to all citizens - not merely those who can afford it.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: It is not legally available. The Act has not been repealed.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: The Hon. J. R. Johnson states that abortion is not legally available. If he recalls the earlier part of my contribution, I specifically referred to "under certain limited circumstances". I am well aware of those limited circumstances. It is important that women receive thorough, compassionate and informative counselling before making the very important decision to undergo an abortion. During this debate a number of concerns have been expressed about whether women are indeed receiving such counselling. I had particular concerns in that regard and because of those concerns I visited the Preterm Clinic with my colleague the Hon. Beryl Evans, indeed at the instigation of my colleague the Hon. Beryl Evans. I found the approach at the Preterm Clinic to be caring and responsible and one that certainly reassured me that counselling was taking place. Before an abortion occurs at the Preterm Clinic, a woman must return for a second appointment. She attends for the first appointment and receives counselling and literature. She is sent away to make her decision and she then returns for the abortion. I am aware that there are a number of other clinics and I believe that the information that has been used in this debate refers to other organisations I have not personally investigated. If women are not receiving adequate counselling that would certainly be a matter of concern to me. Abortion is a serious matter and it is treated as such at the Preterm Clinic. The Preterm Clinic is a most responsible organisation and is concerned about the seriousness of abortion.
There are other concerns regarding this legislation. Some of those concerns have been brought to my attention by the Family Planning Association. The association has stated that one of the effects of the bill might be to transfer the cost of abortions from Medicare to the New South Wales hospital system. That must be a concern for a State government that is under very strict budgetary limitations, a State government that has in recent years received a constant barrage of medical services transfers, by one means or another, by various sleight-of-hand, from the Federal system to the State system. The Federal Government keeps removing important medicines from the pharmaceutical benefits list so that they have to be provided through the public hospital system. That is one way of the Federal Government transferring its responsibility to the State without providing any support for such transfer. We must be concerned about the transfer to the States of the cost of abortions.
There could be problems with public hospitals being in chaos with the huge increase in requests for abortion services. Extensive counselling services would need to be set up in hospitals. I have referred already to the counselling I was made aware of at Preterm. I have grave concern as to whether public hospitals have the capacity to provide counselling services of the level and quality I saw at Preterm, because public hospitals have many other demands on their services. Another possible effect of the bill
might be an increase in the number of second trimester abortions in New South Wales and this conclusion is based on South Australian experience. Another matter could be an increase in the number of general anaesthetics administered for this procedure; general anaesthetics are quite dangerous. The Family Planning Association believes the whole question of abortion is being approached from the wrong angle. There needs to be an inquiry or a study into why so many women have unintended, unwanted pregnancies, and why they are unwilling to take these pregnancies to full term. Once the answers to these questions are known, a positive public education campaign can be instituted to drastically reduce the number of abortions in New South Wales. Until that happens, I am afraid we have a problem. Why is it that women need abortions? Why is it that they have unwanted pregnancies? What lack of support is there for women and for families? What lack of information is there on birth control? Until we answer those questions, there is a very real danger that, by cutting off access to abortion for women across the board, we will be blaming the victim for her affliction.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: The victim is the baby; it always dies.
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: The Hon. J. R. Johnson states that the baby is the victim. I appreciate where he is coming from and his concern. Sadly the baby is not the only victim. Unfortunately in our society there are plenty of instances where children give birth to babies.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (The Hon. Beryl Evans): Order!
The Hon. Dr MARLENE GOLDSMITH: I am aware of a number of cases of girls of 10, 11 or 12 years of age who become pregnant to their fathers or some other male relative, often following many years of child abuse. No one can tell me that that baby - the 10, 11, or 12-year-old - is not a victim herself. To force her young body to carry a child to term when she is not physiologically, psychologically or emotionally ready for such an event, and when she has already been subjected to such traumas, is to my mind the ultimate cruelty. Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and I have discussed this issue at length, and he is aware of my dilemma and stance on it. I cannot support any aspect of legislation that will force those children who are already victims to bear babies that they should never have been impregnated with. I know the concerns of Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile about the level of abortions in New South Wales, but I cannot support this bill.
The Hon. D. J. GAY [6.3]: Before I start my contribution to this debate I should like to say that I am reluctant to speak on this issue for two reasons. First, as a member of Parliament, I do not believe this is an issue we should be canvassing. Second, as a male, I do not believe I understand the dilemma a woman faces regarding abortion. Having said that, we have a social responsibility to debate the issue. I have looked carefully at the bill and, though I have some reservations about aspects of it, I find enough of it fits in with my basic beliefs, so that I support the bill. However, although I am on the record as opposed to abortion, I believe there are some grey areas, especially those referred to by the Hon. Dr Marlene Goldsmith relating to incest and rape. Another grey area is where there is a threat to the life of the mother, whether that be physiological or psychological. In part, the bill put forward by Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile addresses my concerns. I would like to see included in this bill the South Australian legislation provision giving the Minister for Health, having determined private clinics to be of a standard of public hospitals, the right to extend the time for counselling.
I was quite taken by the message of the Hon. Elaine Nile, who said that in private clinics in New South Wales people say a woman has a right to do what she wants with her own body. I say that along with that right there is a responsibility. If that responsibility is harming her or a child, a right is being breached. But no one could condone the butchery that is happening in some clinics. I find it hard to understand that pro-abortion people support that butchery. I certainly cannot condone it. If there is a limitation to counselling, I should like the Minister for Health to have the power to endorse proper procedures in clinics in those circumstances. I support the bill.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES [6.10]: I wish to defend the reputation of my colleague the Hon. Elisabeth Kirkby, whose statistics on maternal deaths or deaths after abortion were attacked. I have been given some figures by the United Kingdom Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, figures that were the result of a confidential inquiry into maternal deaths in England and Wales. Deaths from abortions in 1952 to 1954 were 244; in 1970 to 1972 there were 71 deaths; in 1979 to 1981 there were 14 deaths; and from 1985 to 1987 there were six deaths. The Act was changed in 1968-69. Abortions per million maternities were 70 in 1952 to 1954; 50 in 1966 to 1969; 25 in 1969 to 1972 and five in 1985 to 1987. There has been a decline in the number of abortions even though abortions were legalised.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: The honourable member means a decline in maternal deaths.
The Hon. R. S. L. JONES: There was a decline in the number of abortions and maternal deaths. Women are now able to choose whether or not to continue with their pregnancies. Many more women either are more effective in preventing pregnancy, or they are choosing to keep the child. Those figures alone prove that legislation is not effective in reducing the number of abortions. People in the community have been polled on this issue. In March this year a poll was conducted of people 18 years and over about whether the decision about abortion should be left to the individual and the doctor. Of those surveyed, 34 per cent agreed strongly, 47 per cent agreed, 7 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, 7 per cent disagreed, 5 disagreed strongly and 1 per cent did not know. Thirty-one per cent of men agreed strongly, 49 per cent agreed, 7 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, 8 per cent disagreed, 4 per cent disagreed strongly and 1 per cent did not know. Thirty-six per cent of women agreed strongly, 45 per cent agreed, 8 per cent neither agreed nor disagreed, 6 per cent disagreed, 5 per cent disagreed strongly and no one said she did not know.
Members of the community accept that if abortions were to become illegal in this State, the level of abortions would probably remain the same. However, many women would be pushed into the hand of backyard abortionists, which would have the effect of increasing the incidence of crime and corruption which the Government is trying to stamp out in New South Wales. Clearly it is up to women to decide whether or not to have children. As a male legislator I am not in a position to decide whether a pregnant woman in Wollongong should or should not have her baby. I should not decide whether a pregnant woman in Bourke should or should not have her baby. It must be the woman's decision whether to continue her pregnancy. The decision to become pregnant should be the woman's decision. It cannot be my decision. Catholics for a Free Choice published an interesting booklet called "A Guide to making Ethical Choices", and in part Beverley Wildung Harrison said:
Essentially the Aboriginal people say that this issue is women's business. I am not a woman and I cannot decide whether women should become pregnant or remain pregnant. I am not pro-abortion. It would be wrong to say that people who do not support this legislation are pro-abortion. I believe there would not be one person in the world who is pro-abortion, except those who make a living solely by carrying out abortions. I am certain that the vast majority of men and women would be anti-abortion. It is logical to be anti-abortion. It is also logical to allow women to make the choice themselves. It should be left to the individual woman to make that choice and not left to male legislators or males in the community to tell women what they should do. I should like to see further education of children so that they are informed of the responsibilities of parenthood. If children were given proper sex education from an early age, the level of abortions would drop far more dramatically than they would by the enactment of any law. The enactment of such a law would lead to an increase in the incidence of crime and corruption and force women into the hands of backyard abortionists. I accept and fully understand the motives of the Hon. J. R. Johnson, the Hon. Elaine Nile and Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile but I believe they are going about it the wrong way. Education will be the answer. Draconian laws or flawed laws are not the answer. Education is the answer, and the decision should always remain with the woman.
The Hon. J. F. RYAN [6.16]: This bill has caused me a great deal of agony, as I am sure it has many honourable members. I personally regard abortion as an immoral act, except where it is carried out to save a mother's life or to protect a woman from pregnancy as a result of an act of rape or incest. Essentially this view is the traditional view of the mainstream protestant Christian church, of which I have been an active member since I was 16 years old. I see no reason to burden honourable members with further detail in justification of this view, as most of these issues have been canvassed in detail already. In summary, those who hold views about abortion similar to mine do so because they believe that unborn children have a right to life that transcends the rights of their parents to escape the physical, social or economic consequences of any pregnancy. I use the word "parents" because I mean the responsibilities to include those of the male parent as well as the female parent who actually carries the infant.
Usually I would be in support of any measure that seeks to protect and preserve the rights of unborn children. I regard the number of abortions that are carried out in this State and country as a national disgrace. Many couples who cannot have children desperately long for the opportunity to love and care for them. The fact that thousands of unborn children who might satisfy this longing and would benefit from this love and care are destroyed is an indictment of society. It is a cause of profound regret to me that we have not found a way of making adoption a more preferable alternative to abortion for women who are faced with unplanned pregnancies. Nevertheless, despite my strong personal views about abortion - in fact, in opposition to abortion - I have a number of problems with this bill. In some respects the debate on this bill has been bizarre. Some of those opposed to it would rather women continue to risk poor quality care in some dubious private abortion clinics so as to ensure that abortion remains possibly more accessible than the written letter of the law currently allows in New South Wales. There are some who support the bill, yet by doing so seek to lavish the greatest and most expensive health care on people who seek to carry out an act which they condemn as being morally questionable. I believe it is possible to assess the merits and demerits of
this bill without necessarily involving oneself in the moral question of whether abortion is right or wrong.
Strictly speaking, this bill is not designed to tighten legal access to abortion. It seeks only to transfer abortions out of private clinics and into public hospitals. Consequently this bill must be considered not just as an abortion bill but also in terms of its merits and effects as a public health measure. If passed, this bill would suddenly transfer the burden of carrying out abortions into the already stressed public hospital system. It is beyond doubt that that would have disastrous consequences for the public hospital system. The Government has made significant inroads into reducing the waiting lists for elective surgery at public hospitals. This bill has the potential to completely undo much of that work. There is credible evidence to suggest that restricting abortions to public hospitals would not cut the abortion rate in this State. In South Australia abortions are carried out only in public hospitals. I understand that under the provisions of that State 4,300 abortions are carried out every year. Given that South Australia's population is a quarter of that of New South Wales, 4,300 abortions represents a rate of abortion that is only marginally lower than the New South Wales rate. That is particularly so when one considers that some South Australian women travel to other States for abortions and that a large number of abortions performed in New South Wales are carried out on women from other States.
I have considered the evidence outlined by my colleague the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti. He said that the number of babies offered for adoption in South Australia is similar to the number offered in other States. That evidence suggests that South Australia does not have a greater number than other States of women who continue with unwanted pregnancies. Therefore, if this bill is passed, it is possible that it will have adverse consequences on our public hospital system but still not have any appreciable effect upon limiting the outrageous number of abortions carried out in this State. Many of the objects of this bill could be achieved in a far less controversial and more sensitive manner than is proposed in the bill. With regard to achieving its desired policy objectives, the bill is very much a blunt instrument. It seeks to achieve an ill-defined objective in a very simplistic manner without consideration of other adverse but probably unintended consequences. I should like to propose a package of legislation and regulations that would achieve the best objects of this bill in a more precise way. I really doubt whether there is one member of this House, regardless of his or her view on abortion who does not have some reservations in the present virtually unregulated environment about the quality of the service provided to women seeking abortions from private clinics.
I have carried out my own inquiries and discovered that very few regulations govern the operations of abortion clinics. I think also that Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elaine Nile have raised very legitimate concerns about the quality of service provided to women in some abortion clinics. I believe also that the overwhelming bulk of clinics, such as Preterm and the Bessie Smyth Foundation, provide good care to their patients. However, I am concerned also that there are not many legal obstacles standing in the way of unscrupulous operators, who do not provide the same high standard of care. Sufficient credible evidence about abuses carried out in private abortion clinics has been presented to this House to arouse my concern. I am sure that all honourable members accept that women who seek abortions from private clinics are vulnerable. That is so because in almost every case they are women in crisis. In most cases they see abortion not as a choice but as the only action they can take when they run out of choices. Many of them are prone to feelings of guilt, and some would not be altogether sure about the exact legal status of what they propose to do. If we consider their position as health care
consumers, they are highly unlikely to complain if they receive poor treatment; and that makes them prone to exploitation. Consequently, I believe that these women need more protection from the law, not less.
Abortion clinics are able, for example, to seek certification under the Day Care Procedures Act, which the Government introduced in 1988. To comply with the Act, a clinic must comply with minimum standards relating to the provision of an admission and recovery area, recovery beds, operating room floor space, scrub-up areas, oxygen supplies, suitable electrical installation, quality of maintenance, and so on. There is also a special set of provisions relating to endoscopy centres. However, to my surprise, I discovered that abortion clinics have no obligation to seek certification under the Act. It should be mandatory for abortion clinics to be so certified, and regulations under the Act should be written specifically with reference to abortion clinics, as applies to endoscopy centres. There should be a code of professional practice for abortion clinics, setting out agreed standards of practice and staffing. Those standards should be the obligatory minimum for these clinics to follow before they are legally allowed to operate.
The sorts of matters that should be included in the code of practice are: an outline of the minimum amount of counselling and the content of information which should be given to women seeking an abortion; minimum standards for the practice of surgery, with regard to access to anaesthesia and how procedures might change to cope with advancing stages of pregnancy. The code should also deal with how medical staff should provide for parental involvement in dealing with an application for abortion by an extremely young person. The code should stipulate minimum levels of aftercare for patients. It should specify what arrangements should be in place to ensure the speedy transfer of patients to a hospital if complications occur. It might provide also for a means by which women are afforded suitable time to think about their decision, such as a 24-hour cooling-off period. In other words, we should develop a regime of regulations that ensures that women seeking abortion are able to gain access to the high quality of care that Reverend the Hon. F. J. Nile and the Hon. Elaine Nile intend from the passage of this bill. The Government should put out of business private clinics that are not providing quality service but are operating with an undue interest in commercial gain.
Two other aspects of the South Australian law relating to abortion should be enacted in this State. The South Australian Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1968 contains a provision for the compilation of statistics about the number of abortions. That is quite useful for public monitoring. The statistics include the number of terminations carried out, the classification according to the category of law under which the procedure was legally permitted, the term of the pregnancy and, most important, the number of procedures in which there were complications, such as the need for an emergency transfer to a hospital or post-abortion complications. The South Australian law also contains a provision to protect the interests of foetuses that are involved in late-term abortions. Abortions on women who have entered the twenty-eighth week of pregnancy do not necessarily have to involve the death of the child. In these circumstances I believe that the New South Wales law should contain provisions similar to those in South Australia. In that State a termination must be carried out in such a manner that allows the foetus a possible chance of survival. I believe that the package of laws I have referred to would be far preferable to the regime proposed by this bill.
Finally, I was asked to consider voting for this bill as a symbolic gesture or demonstration against the practice of abortion. My vote one way or the other will not make much difference to the fate of this bill as I am sure that it will be decided by a convincing margin. However, I do not believe that any member of this House should make such compromise for the sake of symbolism. If I cannot agree with the specific provisions of a bill, I should vote against it, no matter how much I might support its
overall intent. So, it is with some mixed feelings that I will vote against this bill. However, during my term in this House I look forward to achieving at least some of the reforms to which I referred earlier.
[The President left the chair at 6.30 p.m. The House resumed at 8.15 p.m.]
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE [8.15], in reply: The Procurement of Miscarriage Limitation Bill deals with the whole issue of protection of the unborn baby. It is a life and death issue about which honourable members could spend hours presenting their points of view. I spoke at length at the second reading stage of the bill, as did the Hon. Elaine Nile when she spoke in support of it. I thank most sincerely the Hon. J. R. Johnson for his loyal and outspoken support, perhaps not so much for the bill as for the protection of the unborn baby. I thank also the Hon. D. J. Gay for his expressions of support for the legislation. It takes courage to publicly support such legislation. He has nailed his colours to the mast for which he will receive criticism from some quarters and praise from others. I believe that those who support this bill in principle are seeking to do the will of God the Creator. Life is sacred. Call to Australia believes in the sanctity of life as expressed in the Ten Commandments: thou shalt not kill. We believe that the unborn baby in the womb is a person who has rights, and certainly has a right to life.
The bill is, perhaps, a serious misjudgment by the Right to Life movement, particularly by the pro-life lawyers who drafted the original, for which notice of introduction into the lower House was given by a then member, Mr Guy Yeomans. However, it did not proceed further. It was presented to me to keep it alive, as it were, to be introduced into this Chamber. The pro-life lawyers, sincere Christian men who drafted the bill, thought that the bill would receive wider support than that given to the Unborn Child Protection Bill. It was their strategy to take on the abortion clinics, in which, the evidence is clear, abuses were occurring. Even honourable members who will not vote for the legislation, such as the Hon. J. F. Ryan, conceded that fact. Generally speaking, abortion clinics offer abortion on demand. They advertise openly, in the telephone directory and by other means, activities that literally are against the law.
The pro-life lawyers realised that governments were loath to act either for or against the abortion issue, which is both sensitive and controversial. For a number of reasons Labor and Liberal Party-National Party governments have sat on the fence so far as taking action is concerned to reduce the number of babies that are being aborted. It was thought that this bill would prompt some action and that it would receive the support of honourable members who are pro-life. I am aware that a number of members of this House support the strategy of the pro-life movement though they have some reservations about the legislation and believe they could have presented more suitable legislation than that drafted by the pro-life lawyers. The Hon. J. F. Ryan said that he could not give the bill symbolic support. Perhaps "symbolic" is not the right word. The reality is that between 40,000 and 60,000 abortions are carried out each year in New South Wales - part of the 100,000 that take place each year across the nation. The pro-life movement believed that the number could be calculated by examining figures relating to Medicare funding, in particular graphs supplied by the Australian Senate relating to Medicare statistics on pregnancy terminations to determine whether Medicare funds should be made available to pay for abortions.
The trend is upward from 1981 to 1990. Where will it end? With my agreement the pro-life lawyers felt something must be done in an endeavour to bring down this horrific abortion rate: one way would be to close down the abortion clinics.
The Unborn Child Protection Bill is to be debated in the Parliament. That legislation deals with an issue that the Hon. Dr B. P. V. Pezzutti desired to debate, a bill debating when life begins and other philosophical questions. That is the thrust of that particular legislation. Because the Unborn Child Protection Bill has so many different aspects, the pro-life lawyers said that honourable members may evade their responsibilities by focusing on a minor measure and then saying that in principle they could not support the legislation. It was felt that this bill would receive more support. Honourable members have said that the legislation is too simplistic, but that was deliberate. The pro-life lawyers were of the view that the legislation should be drafted in simple terms so that no member would find any way to evade the basic issue that abortion clinics provide abortion on demand and should be closed down.
Practical problems will arise such as setting up counselling and pregnancy help centres in association with the public hospitals. Questions may be asked as to whether public hospitals can handle the demand. That demand would not in any way be equal to the number of abortions being performed in abortion clinics; public hospitals could cope with them. Some pro-life members have stated they would abstain from voting on the bill because it did not prohibit abortions in public hospitals. But if that provision had been included, other members would not then have given support to the bill because all alternatives had been closed off. In an attempt to gather more support two bills were drafted. In so doing perhaps I have lost the support of one or two honourable members. One must juggle the conflicting points of view and pressures with the simple desire that something be done.
I hope honourable members come to the view that this legislation will not cause serious problems but will have major advantages. I ask them to vote for the legislation. Although initially the Government will supervise the implementation of the legislation, suggestions may be made in the future to amend that method of operation. The bill is designed to be as simple as possible and not have detail. In due course that detail will become part of the regulations normally drafted with the assistance of the Minister for Health and others directly involved. Even at this late date I urge honourable members to examine their consciences. It is a matter of sanctity of life. This legislation seeks to reduce the number of abortions in this State, that is, abortions on demand, not those involved with incest, rape or where a mother's life is at risk. Many abortions are done for convenience, even because the baby is of unwanted sex. One could not have a more irrational, unworthy motive than that. For that reason I urge honourable members to examine their consciences before they vote on this bill.
There has been community debate as to the right of members of Parliament, male politicians, to discuss this issue. Whether male or female we each have a conscience and wish to protect the disadvantaged, weak, ill, handicapped and unborn babies in our society. Parliament has a perfect right and that right has been respected by parliaments down through history. That is why we have legislation in the Crimes Act which prohibits abortions. Parliaments have always understood they have a right and obligation to protect unborn babies because of respect for the sanctity of life. Even if only one abortion is averted because of this legislation, the bill will have been worth while.
The Hon. J. R. Johnson: We have had four.
Reverend the Hon. F. J. NILE: If one unborn baby were saved and one mother were protected from post-abortion grief, this bill would be worth while. The Hon. J. R. Johnson interjected to say that because of this debate a number of women planning to have abortions have not proceeded. This legislation is a conscience-raising exercise. Through the media we have received authentic reports that a number of women did not
proceed with abortions. The bill, if passed by this Parliament, will have an even greater effect and more babies will survive to become young Australians and participate in the growth and development of our nation. Honourable members should bear in mind before voting that the bill was initiated by lawyers from the pro-life and Right to Life movements. I have statements supporting the bill from all church leaders including some leaders of the Uniting Church, not from the official hierarchy but from parishes and other clergy of that church. Every other church is on record as supporting the bill. Every religious group in this State - including the Catholic Church, the Russian Orthodox Church, the Pentecostal Church, and the charismatic churches - has expressed support for what it regards as a pro-life bill. Honourable members who vote against the bill will be voting against a pro-life measure and cannot escape that responsibility. It is beyond my ability to change that. A vote in this House will be seen by the Right to Life movement as a vote for or against life, a vote pro-life or pro-abortion.
The pro-life movement will widely publicise the vote on the bill in their journals and elsewhere. It is a serious matter. I urge all members to examine their consciences. The passing of the bill will not do any damage to anyone in our society. A vote against the bill will allow the abortion tragedy to continue unabated. As evidenced by the graph I produced earlier, the number of abortions will continue to rise, and most abortions in Australia will be done in New South Wales. Honourable members cannot avoid that responsibility. The majority of abortions in Australia are happening in our State. The State Parliament must accept responsibility. The buck stops with us. With this bill the lives of unborn babies are with us. The elected members of Parliament have responsibility for and are the protectors, so to speak, of unborn babies. I hope and pray that tonight honourable members might hear their cry and respond by giving them a measure of protection by supporting the measure. I commend the bill to honourable members and to their consciences. The bill affects hospitals, abortion clinics, and so on, but essentially it is a pro-life measure. Honourable members may vote according to their consciences and are not bound by their parties. Each member must vote according to his or her conscience.
Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.
The House divided.
. . . it is the capacity of women to undertake, in freedom, the consummately moral action of childbearing that is threatened when the politics of abortion play fast and lose with the particularity of women's lives . . .
Revd F. J. Nile
Question so resolved in the negative.