Tuesday 19 November 2013
Hansard of the
HEALTH (ACCESS TO TERMINATIONS)
BILL 2013 (No.
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Wonders never cease to amaze, Mr
President, I agree with the member for Western Tiers. I do not see any reason
why having an abortion in Tasmania should be classed as a criminal offence, and
therefore I support this bill in principle. However, like other members, I have
some reservations. I will detail those shortly, and I am sure there will be a
lot of other points mentioned in the Committee stage, by the look of the raft
of amendments that we have had delivered to our seats.
This bill, by taking abortion out of the Criminal Code,
makes it a medical procedure, and it becomes a matter between a woman and her
doctor. A woman's decision to have an abortion is stressful enough without
having to worry about criminality. Let us bear in mind that Tasmania's 89-year-old
Criminal Code currently sentences with up to 21 years jail any woman who
terminates an unwanted pregnancy. I know no-one has been prosecuted for many
Mr Dean - Never.
Mr FINCH - Nevertheless a potential 21-year
jail sentence is a nonsense. Would you agree, member for Windermere?
Mr Dean - I would agree. That is why it has
never been imposed.
Mr FINCH - No, but that has to be cleaned up.
It is just silly to have it there.
Ms Forrest - It also makes access to terminations
for women outside the major cities very difficult, and that is the issue here,
Mr FINCH - Yes. Mr President, a woman, as a
result of an unplanned pregnancy, ought not to have her whole future placed in
jeopardy either because of physical or psychological problems or severe
financial problems. Financial difficulties do not only threaten the wellbeing
of a mother and a family but also of a child, perhaps for many years.
I know that many people in my electorate have heartfelt
views on the issue of abortion, there is no doubt about that. I appreciate the
contact I have had from them to let me know how they are feeling about this. We
can operate in a bubble but unless our constituents let us know what they are
feeling, we are one-dimensional. I appreciate the fact that I have had the
contact. I hear about some of the distressing calls and contacts we have had
but they wash over me in the big picture. We have to have our constituents
contact us and communicate with us and let us know what they are feeling, even
if we do not align our thinking to what they are saying.
However, this bill is not directly about abortion. The
debate about abortion has already happened. I believe there is no evidence that
taking abortion out of the Criminal Code in Tasmania would increase the number
of abortions. That will not occur. I believe it may lead to fewer late-term
abortions. As I have spoken about it with Mark Brown today, I believe that greater education is the issue that we
should be dealing with. It is that constant education that must go on because
we can educate to a high degree and run all sorts of programs and say, 'Oh boy,
we've done our job'. That has to be revisited, it has to pick up the next
generation and the next generation and be there as a reminder. Education is a
very strong factor in my thinking.
It means that women on low incomes in regional areas would
have public access to the procedure, as highlighted by the member for Murchison
and, also in agreement with the member for Western Tiers, I do not see why a
woman attending an abortion clinic should be subjected to harassment and
vilification. I support provisions in the bill to prevent that. I also support
the allowance for a doctor or a counsellor to refuse to be involved in abortion
on the grounds of conscientious objection; I agree with that.
But the reservation I mentioned earlier is about the size of
the proposed fine for a doctor or counsellor who refuses to make a referral,
and I am sure that will be discussed more.
Ms Forrest - There is no fine for the doctor.
Mr FINCH - No. As I said earlier, many people
have heartfelt views on the issue of abortion and, like other members, I have
been lobbied extensively on this bill, both for and against. At this stage I
would like to make clear that personally I have no strong feelings on this bill
one way or another. It is not going to have much effect, if any, on the rate of
terminations in Tasmania.
I am very aware that many people and organisations oppose
this bill and oppose abortion, and most of their arguments are based on the
belief that life begins at conception. Christian groups, such as the Australian
Christian Lobby, have put forward extensive arguments against abortion and
again to Mark Brown, I appreciate the contact we have had and that information.
As I said earlier, this bill is not directly about abortion. Nevertheless, I
looked closely at the arguments but I think it is stretching things a bit by
using arguments against the decriminalisation of abortion to oppose abortion
itself. I believe this reform is long overdue and I support the bill.