Ms Patten (Northern Metropolitan) — In reflecting on trying to debate this bill in its entirety today, I probably had about 20 pages to contribute to the debate, but I do not intend on doing that today. I obviously do not intend on supporting the Infant Viability Bill 2015 either. I think my position on this issue has been pretty clear, and I have been pretty public about it, so I do not intend to repeat much of that. I also respect that Ms Crozier, Ms Hartland and Ms Pulford have covered a lot of the areas where we are all on common ground as to why we do not support this bill.
One of my concerns with this is, while I have read the second-reading speech and I have read the bill, I was not given the courtesy of a briefing from Dr Carling-Jenkins. In fact I was told that it was a courtesy, not an obligation, and that I would not be awarded that courtesy. So I did not have some of the information that other people in this chamber have had in order to really hear and investigate the reasons — and no doubt the thoughtful reasons — behind Dr Carling-Jenkins’s intentions with this bill.
While I did not receive briefings from Dr Carling-Jenkins, I did receive briefings from medical professionals such as Dr Tippett, obviously, as mentioned by Ms Hartland, and I even spoke to people who perform premature deliveries and late-term abortions. I spoke to women who had actually undertaken late-term abortions, and I spoke to human rights experts and medical malpractice experts. Not a single one of them was ambiguous about their opposition to this bill; they could not find any area on which to support this bill.
For the people who say no to abortion, it is very easy to say no. If your beliefs are black and white, you do not have to think about this, because it is not under consideration. Many women who find out that there are significant abnormalities at that 20-week mark, as Ms Crozier touched on, will choose to go full term because it accords with their belief — their religious belief or strong personal belief — not to have an abortion. But for people like me, who may say yes in certain circumstances and may say no in other circumstances, that is a much more difficult thought process. That is a lot more difficult than just saying no. I am yes sometimes and no at other times, but it is up to me and it is with the advice of my doctor. I feel that women should all be awarded that opportunity to make that decision for themselves and not be told by legislation that they must say no or that their doctors must refuse them treatment when that treatment would be in the best interests of that woman.
As others have said, I find this bill difficult in the way that it has been constructed. I think many parts of it are poorly defined. That may be because I did not get a briefing, but I think conflating gestation with viability is very tricky. The bill suggests that all fetuses are somehow viable at 24 weeks when we cannot even accurately find that gestation point. We recognise that it is an imprecise science and that you cannot say that at 24 weeks everything is good and everything is viable. It is just not true.
I also have concern about the notion of ‘preborn child’. I have never heard this before. It is a brand-new term, and yet there is no definition within the bill for this term that appears to be the very crucial part of this bill — that is, the notion that a fetus has personhood prior to it being born — and I think this is very dangerous. I think there is ambiguity around holistic care and where the bill defines distress as ‘distress’. I do not think that is an adequate definition of distress.
One of the hardest parts of this was thinking about some of the women who have had late-term abortions who, under this legislation, would have to have carried that fetus to full term knowing that that fetus was going to die. They would have to have been in a supermarket where people were saying, ‘When’s it due?’, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’, ‘Have you painted the nursery?’, ‘Have you done this?’. It would just be torturous for someone knowing that they were carrying to full term possibly something that they had wanted so much but knowing that they were forced to carry it full term and it was not going to live, it was not viable. But this legislation, if it is successful, would insist that they carry it.
I promise not to go on long, but I do want to mention the European Court of Human Rights, which has put that the unborn child is not regarded as a person directly in article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, ‘Right to life’, and if the unborn do have a right to life, it is implicitly limited by the mother’s rights and interests, including her rights to life, health and privacy. The European Court of Human Rights has put it very, very clearly, and forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy is inhumane and removes their right to bodily autonomy. It goes against our internationally established legal understandings of personhood and human rights. Many others have touched on, and I am sure others will touch on, a bill that criminalises doctors for doing what they think is best, and Ms Crozier spoke very well about this, as did Ms Hartland. So I am not going to cover that area.
I am going to finish by saying that I feel that this bill is imposing someone’s set of religious ideology. It is someone that says this should be black and white, this should be yes or no, and it is not. And for people like me who are pro-choice it is a much harder question than just saying no. It is a much harder question. So I, along with medical professionals, legal experts and women’s health specialists, will oppose this bill. And I think if we were truly pro-life, we would all oppose it