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MOTION: Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 - Refer to Committee

Mrs ARMITAGE ( Launceston ) - Mr President, I was told recently by a medical practitioner that this bill is seeking a solution to a problem that does not exist. If this bill were to come before us in its current form I would oppose it. I would not vote for it. However, we have heard a lot of evidence today and it needs to be under oath and it needs to be on the record. I agree with the honourable member for Murchison this is not about whether we agree with abortion or whether we do not. Abortion is legal in Tasmania. You do not need a referral to go to an abortion clinic.

I looked up on the internet 'abortion' and I found that if I was pregnant I could go to several abortion clinics, 24-hour phone number, make a call, get in, no problem at all, and no GP needed to go to. Just rock up to the abortion clinic because there are two doctors there. There is the anaesthetist, there is a specialist and there was a general practitioner - in one case that we listened to earlier - who was also a specialist in surgical procedures. It is not hard to get an abortion. It is not hard to find where an abortion clinic is.

This is about taking abortion out of the Criminal Code but I think the member for Rumney asked previously how many people had actually been charged under the Criminal Code. I do not believe he has had an answer yet, and I am surprised because I did not think it was all that difficult. My understanding is that no-one has been charged. When you have a look, at the moment, the only states that are not under the Criminal Code law or act are the ACT and Victoria. In every other state in Australia, abortion comes under either a criminal code or criminal law.

While I do not agree with the bill, I will support it going to a committee because today I heard a lot of evidence and I have had a lot of emails regarding issues that exist, regarding possible instances of viable babies not resuscitated and other areas. It would be worthwhile for us to look not only at the bill before us, but at the current act. I think it was Michael Stokes who, when I asked him the question today, 'Do you believe we should refuse this bill?' said, 'Yes.' I asked, 'Do you believe there should be changes?' He felt that at the time it was perhaps opportune to look at the whole act and perhaps to do a review. I would like to see the terms of reference broad enough that the whole act could be looked at. If we are going to do it, let us not do it a half-baked way; let us spend the time and do it so that it is a bit more thorough.

I hear that this is about women's health and I agree that it is. But sometimes we forget about the fathers. The fathers are involved; they were part of the pregnancy. I do not think we should just say 'women's health'; I believe the fathers should be involved and should have some responsibility.

I am not going to repeat everything that has been said. The member for Derwent said it all very eloquently. But if we are looking at things being improved by taking it to committee, forestry is a prime example. The forestry bill came up certainly underdone. Even people who opposed the forestry bill agree that it was improved. I had many emails afterwards saying, I do not agree with the forestry bill but I am pleased with what the Legislative Council did with it and the amendments that were made, and we need to look at that.

I have never been a fan of a lot of committees. Many times, I doubt where they are going and how long they take and the cost and the outcome. But in some instances, particularly if the act needs to be changed, it is important that we do it properly.

Abortion is a very serious issue. We are not debating whether you are in favour or you are not. It is legal in Tasmania but we need to make sure that we do not make amendments on the run and that any amendments and changes we make to the bill are relevant to the act that is already there. I would like to see the terms of reference wide enough to look into the act. I support the call for a committee.

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