Michelle Lensink

Consent To Medical Treatment And Palliative Care (Termination Of Pregnancy) Amendment Bill

This speech is to express personal views on this particular piece of legislation. The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK indicates that she will not be supporting the Consent To Medical Treatment And Palliative Care (Termination Of Pregnancy) Amendment Bill.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:21): I rise to indicate some personal remarks in relation to my views on this particular piece of legislation. I advise the Legislative Council that this is a conscience vote for Liberal members. We are a broad church and we represent a range of views, and I will put my personal views, therefore, which is no reflection on what any of my Liberal colleagues may believe.

I note from the honourable mover of this particular bill that it proposes that information be provided to women who are seeking an abortion with a view to providing them with alternative options of adoption and foster care. As might be expected of a member of Family First—and I would be, quite frankly, surprised if they were not pro-life—he makes that case quite straightforwardly. He says he is in the pro-life camp and that other members may be in the so-called pro-choice camp. He then makes a comment that 'Few people will ever change their mind on the rights and wrongs of abortion.'

I am one person who has changed their view on this particular issue. As a young person growing up in a conservative Catholic household, I thought abortion was wrong always. However, this ignores the reality of the situation that many women find themselves in. I think most of us would prefer that abortion was a last resort, but it is part of a very important range of options so that women are the people who have the ultimate choice over whether they should have children or not.

What I find disappointing in the honourable mover's remarks is the complete absence of any discussion about family planning and contraception, and I trust that he is not intending to wind that back. The preceding speaker talked about this being a slippery slope. I hope that in his summing up remarks he confirms that that is not to be wound back. There is a very important role for good education and sexual health services, which would mitigate the number of so-called 'unwanted pregnancies'. I think that term should be 'unintended pregnancies'.

A woman's control over her reproduction was described by the late, great Dr David Tonkin. He described the pill in the 1950s and 1960s as the final leveller. As he was speaking to the predecessor to our equal opportunity legislation, or the bill that he introduced, which was the first in any jurisdiction in Australia, he said:

The biological restrictions on women's activities have been largely overcome with the development of family planning techniques. One might say the pill has proved to be the final leveller.

I think that is very important. We can take that for granted in our Western country which has had access to good quality family planning and to safe abortion clinics for some time. I do believe that is supported by the vast majority of Australians.

I would encourage people to google an organisation called The Girl Effect, which looks at the situation in developing nations. It is recognised by the United Nations and other organisations that study these things that, if we can provide young women and girls with control over contraception and family planning, it will lead to much less poverty in those nations. As women and girls are provided with an education, they are able to contribute to economic prosperity, whether in a developed nation or a developing nation. In this website it is looking at the latter and how that drives down poverty in those nations. Otherwise, quite frankly, without access to those services, women and girls would live a life of abject poverty.

The provision of information may, on the face of it, appear to be harmless. Without thinking through all the implications of this particular bill, one may reach that conclusion. Quite frankly—and I am not putting it in the same terms as the previous speaker—this is dog whistling. This is all about abortion and what this chamber thinks about abortion. I am concerned that there may be further attempts which are an attack on the battles that have been won in the past on behalf of women to, ultimately, make sure that they have control over their fertility, family planning and contraception, etc.

In pondering this issue, I tried to think of other areas which could be broadly described as being in the health sector where we prescribe what sort of information is provided to clients. I did not come up with many. One that I did think of, because it has been a particular debate that I—

The Hon. A. Bressington interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Well, informed consent in that respect. One that we did look at in quite a lot of detail in the lead-up to the 2006 election was in relation to autopsies. In that case we had a situation where pathologists were performing procedures on the bodies of loved ones and so forth and the families had no idea. There was a complete lack of transparency (in many cases those family members were completely unaware), and it was that lack of transparency and breach of trust which led us to try to prescribe—unsuccessfully, I might add; it has been an ongoing battle that I have been having on behalf of certain families, but I will not get distracted into that particular area.

It highlights that in that situation we have vulnerable families who deserve to have access to information and not to be kept in the dark. However, I am wondering, in this instance, as the preceding speaker said, what is the issue that we are seeking to correct? Is the mover of the motion suggesting that general practitioners or medicos are deliberately withholding information from their patients? Are they not telling them what the options are—particularly because every doctor has to take the Hippocratic oath: 'First, do no harm.' I do think that in some ways this bill is a reflection on the entire medical profession.

There is a lot of reference to teens, and I would like to quote one of the comments made in the mover's speech. He says:

Many abortions, it seems, are due to women being pushed into the process by someone, whether it be a partner or some sort of conveyor-belt type mentality in some institutions, or simply a lack of knowledge of the alternatives.

That, and many other things, are quoted. I would appreciate some sort of reference because I think that information would be challenged. As I said, there is a lot of reference to teens. Young people are certainly the most technological generation, which is to be expected, yet this bill implies that women do not know how to access this information themselves. Indeed, to me, it implies that women are somewhat illiterate, they are intimidated or they need a nudge to do the right thing. That offends me and I will not be supporting this bill.


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