Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
I introduce this bill today because our current abortion law, which was written in 1969 and was once progressive and leading the nation, is no longer fit for purpose. It acts as a barrier to the provision of best health care, a barrier to that care for women living in rural and remote areas, who are particularly disadvantaged, a barrier to women who are new to living in this state and have not been resident for the required two months, and a barrier to the medical profession, who deal with matters of health care every day, none of which, except for abortion, are placed within the criminal code, as this issue is.
In South Australia abortion remains in the criminal law. We once led the nation in law reform, in 1969, but that law now causes inequality, especially for those living in rural and remote South Australia, even though there are excellent public abortion services, particularly in Adelaide and the Pregnancy Advisory Centre in Adelaide and those prescribed hospitals that provide that care. Methods have changed, and the law that once was so progressive has now become a barrier to access and availability. Women in our state now face unnecessary restrictions when seeking abortion.
Abortion should be treated like any other health service. Women should decide, with their medical professionals aiding their treatment. Abortion should not be in the criminal law. One in three women, however, will have an abortion in their lifetime. Abortion is a healthy choice for those women and families. It does not present a danger to them that warrants a criminal sanction. Despite the myths often put forward for, I believe, nefarious reasons rather than real concern for a woman's health, abortion has no link to long-term mental health problems.
There being a disturbance in the strangers' gallery:
The PRESIDENT: Members of the gallery, you will be excluded from the gallery. The member is entitled to be heard in silence. This is not for you to be here for participation.
The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Abortion has no link, no proven link, to long-term mental health problems, no link to infertility and no link to breast cancer. According to the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, serious complications after abortion are rare. In fact, safe and legal abortion is less hazardous to a woman's health than is childbirth. Contrary to popular misconceptions, adverse effects on a woman's psychological and emotional health are also rare. Multiple studies confirm that for the majority of women their psychological wellbeing frequently improves following an abortion. This should not be surprising, as many women report their abortion experiences to be characterised by feelings of relief.
All kinds of women have abortions for all kinds of reasons. Women are just as likely to have an abortion if they already have children as they are if they do not have any children. More women over 35 have abortions than women under 20. Best quality abortion care is enabled when abortion is a woman's decision, is affordable for a woman and is accessible regardless of her location or her income.
This bill provides that abortion should be removed from our criminal laws and regulated like any other health service. It is a simple proposition the intent of which is supported by overwhelming public opinion of the people in Australia. Public opinion in Australia has indeed been moving in a strong pro-choice direction since the 1970s. Various studies conducted in the 21st century have consistently shown that at least 80 per cent of Australians support the statement, 'A woman should have the right to choose whether or not she has an abortion.' Most people are in fact surprised to find that abortion is still defined in our criminal law.
A recent major report on Australian public opinion of abortion was conducted by Lonergan Research in 2015. It surveyed over 1,000 New South Wales residents. The overwhelming majority, some 87 per cent of respondents, believe that women should be able to have an abortion, with over half agreeing that women should be able to attain one at any time under any circumstance. A mere 6 per cent indicated opposition to abortion regardless of their circumstance.
At that time 76 per cent of respondents were unaware that abortion was still a crime in New South Wales, and 73 per cent supported the removal of abortion from the New South Wales Crimes Act. I note that in that survey 81 per cent supported the creation of safe access zones around healthcare locations providing abortion services and advice. There was a majority support for abortion access, decriminalisation and safe access zones, and this majority was evident across geographic, demographic and political boundaries. So it is a myth that abortion is a controversial issue that divides the community down the middle. It is a controversy of outliers versus the majority.
The controversy that often accompanies discussion about abortion belies the fact that the vast majority of Australians actually support women's access to safe and legal abortion services. The time is overdue for the law to reflect this reality. In South Australia, that time is now.
Abortion is a healthcare option that many women may require when their pregnancy is unplanned or unviable. With that sentence—unplanned or unviable or unwanted—lies a multitude of unique circumstances that that woman faces.
We often ask the question, and certainly have done since the 1980s: what do women want? This bill answers that question but also answers the question: what do women need? I contend that they need and no doubt want laws that support them in their health choices, as varied as they are, and laws that are as supportive of the myriad of circumstances they face as they can be. That need for real choice and those laws that will support their choices are why I introduce this bill today. I do so not as an individual MP but with and for the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition (SAAAC).
The South Australian Abortion Action Coalition is a broad coalition of people whose goal is to improve access to abortion in South Australia. SAAAC members have diverse backgrounds. They include medical, legal, academic, social justice and advocacy professions. In that diversity, the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition are united by a belief that best quality abortion care is enabled when abortion is a woman's decision, is affordable to all and is accessible regardless of a woman's location.
Further, that abortion is not a crime but rather a health procedure and, as such, it should be regulated like any other health procedure. Its place in the criminal law creates significant barriers to best health care and it is time that that now changed. Supporters of SAAAC include:
the ALP Women's Network;
the Australian Clinical Psychology Association;
the Australian Medical Students' Association;
the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, SA Branch;
the Australian Psychological Society, SA Branch;
the Australian Society for Psychosocial Obstetrics and Gynaecology;
the Australian Women's Health Network;
Business and Professional Women Adelaide;
Children by Choice;
the Coalition of Women's Domestic Violence Services;
EMILY's List SA;
the Family Planning Alliance Australia;
the Flinders University Student Association (FUSA);
the Human Rights Law Centre;
Marie Stopes Australia;
the National Alliance of Abortion and Pregnancy Options Counsellors;
the National Council for Single Mothers and their Children;
the Public Health Association of Australia, SA Branch;
Reproductive Choice Australia;
the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists;
the South Australian Council of Social Services (SACOSS);
the South Australian Council for Civil Liberties;
the SA Unions Women's Standing Committee;
Support after Fetal Diagnosis of Abnormality (SAFDA) SA;
the Tabbot Foundation;
the Union of Australian Women;
the Women's Electoral Lobby;
the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), SA Branch;
the Working Women's Centre South Australia; and
the YWCA of Adelaide.
I also add that this policy is supported by the Greens of South Australia. It is, indeed, not a conscience vote for the two members of the Greens in this parliament because this is our party platform that we took to the state election: that abortion is a health issue, not a criminal matter.
The South Australian Abortion Action Coalition—and I note that many of them are in the gallery today—have organised for some time now, for years, because abortion remains a crime punishable by up to life imprisonment in our state. That 1969 statutory amendment to the 1935 act allows abortion only when the woman has resided in South Australia for two months, two doctors determine the abortion is necessary on mental or physical health grounds or for foetal abnormalities, and before the woman is 28 weeks pregnant and, thereafter, only to preserve the woman's health and if performed in a prescribed hospital.
That is why, after some two years of community engagement, in August this year the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition began its more formal campaign by sending letters to each and every state MP calling on them to take action to repeal our abortion laws and remove abortion from the criminal code. They did so because of the regulation of abortion within the state's criminal law, which not only reinforces the stigma associated with seeking or providing an abortion but also produces those significant barriers to best care. These barriers do not necessarily prevent women in our state from seeking abortions but they certainly do place unnecessary limits on the capacity of doctors and the health professionals to provide them.
While each woman's experience of abortion is unique, all women seeking an abortion in South Australia will encounter this law that constrains the possibilities for medical practitioners and health services to provide them with that best care. It was considered an act of liberalisation in 1969, and indeed then it was. For its time, it served us well, but almost half a century later that section 82A of our Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 has become a barrier rather than an enabler of good health care.
I will start with the first barrier, the prescribed hospital clause. The current law requires that all abortions must be performed in 'a prescribed hospital'. Originally very well intentioned to ensure the safe provision of surgical abortion, the global emergence of safe and effective early medication abortion (EMA) in 1988 means that the current interpretation of prescribed hospital is now out of step with evidence based best care practices. This law does not, for example, enable GPs to prescribe EMA for their patients from their general practice setting as occurs in other states.
Further, SA women are not able to use telemedicine services for EMA. To access EMA in South Australia, a woman must attend a prescribed hospital for those two or more visits. Stories abound of women who inappropriately walked from a GP surgery to a prescribed hospital or were incomprehensively required to find overnight babysitters, drive many hundreds of kilometres to access EMA while cramping in the car, take several days off work or stay in a hotel or rely on supportive friends who have a spare couch. Our laws do not serve those women. If they do not live close to a prescribed hospital, they are not served. They are given barriers to their health care.
Across other Australian jurisdictions, EMA services are provided according to best practice guidelines of leading health authorities. These guidelines enable women to take the prescribed medication at home with support and follow-up care if required. The impact of the current legal requirement for all abortions to be performed in a prescribed hospital is felt most keenly by women living in regional SA where abortion services are scarce. The majority of women living in regional SA who have an abortion within the current law need to travel and this involves delays, stress and an undue financial burden.
For some women this can actually mean a 700-kilometre round trip, often for the purpose of taking some tablets. The solution of accessing EMA from a GP or via telehealth, such as that offered by Marie Stopes to women across almost every other Australian jurisdiction, is simply not available to South Australian women. In more distressing circumstances, these legal constraints can mean that women who have accessed an EMA experience the commencement of their abortion on their way home from that very prescribed hospital that was supposed to provide them with quality care, when in another jurisdiction they would be safely in their own home by this stage. These experiences are totally avoidable and this is certainly not 21st century health care.
Barrier number two is the requirement for an examination and certification by two doctors. In SA, abortion is the only health procedure that requires examination and certification by not one but two legally qualified medical practitioners in order to make the procedure lawful. One doctor is not lawful. This is unnecessary and archaic and underscores and reminds all involved, especially those doctors, that in our healthcare system abortion is still firmly placed within a criminal context. By delegating this authority to not one but two medical practitioners, the current law compromises women's right to self-determination.
Not only is abortion one of the safest health procedures in Australia, it should always be a decision made not by a politician in a parliament but by the person who is pregnant. This requirement also enforces the inefficient overuse of our scarce medical resources. It can contribute to delay in access when a second doctor may not be available to certify that procedure. In fact, some medical practitioners identify the location of abortion in the criminal law as a reason for their reluctance to be the second examiner.
The third barrier is that the provision of abortion is limited to 'medical practitioners'. International research demonstrates that abortion can be safely and effectively provided by appropriately trained healthcare providers, not only by medical practitioners. The World Health Organization advises that early medication abortion is the responsibility of women with the support of trained healthcare providers. These providers not only include doctors, of course, but also nurses, midwives and pharmacists. By precluding these providers from supporting women in this way, the current law yet again constrains the possibilities for best health care.
I note that an international student, newly arrived to the state, who had not lived here for the required two months and who found herself pregnant and not wanting to carry that through, who received in the mail RU486 from her mother, would be breaking our current laws. Her mother would have thought that she was doing the best to offer her daughter help and support, but her mother is breaking our laws, and, of course, by accessing that medication that she would be able get through Telehealth, if she was currently in any other state of the country at the moment, the international student, precluded from accessing our services by not being a resident, would also be criminalised. I find it curious that a woman can go to a pharmacy for contraception for the morning after pill but she cannot go to that same chemist for RU486. It defies the reality of the 21st century.
The fourth barrier is gestational limits. More than 90 per cent of South Australian women who have an abortion do so within the very first 14 weeks of pregnancy. For a very small but significant population, the decision may be made after this stage. These decisions emerge out of varied and complex lived experiences. For more than half, the delay derives from the little recognised fact that pregnancy is not always easily identifiable or, for those women who are pre or peri-menopausal, pregnancy was not considered likely or possible.
Domestic violence, mental and physical health problems, injury, trauma and addiction often frame the personal circumstances of a woman's decision to have an abortion beyond that 14 weeks. In the case of foetal anomaly, the complexities of making that decision to have an abortion is bound up, of course, with the timing of tests. The timing restrictions that we currently have set out in our current law prescribe an upper limit of 28 weeks. Interpretation of that law, however, means that in practice abortion is provided in South Australia mostly only up to 24 weeks, yet certain relevant tests may only be available at that 20-week mark, leaving a very narrow and possibly very pressured window of time for that woman's decision, a pressure that woman should not have to face.
If an anomaly is identified, further tests may be ordered to give women as much information as possible for their decision-making. While medical and healthcare practitioners can provide this woman with that important information, the current law actually restricts them from giving that woman as much time as she needs with the appropriate information to make the decision she must.
Best care practices for health require that a woman be able to make those decisions about their reproductive health, as the experts of their situation, with the support of their health practitioner, not rushing her into time frames that were set by parliament and not by the professional advising her. When the law limits women's access to that information and the time needed to act autonomously, with the support of their health practitioners, that law needs to change. Best care happens when a woman has convenient access to abortion services and when we trust that woman and we trust the healthcare professionals. Best care is timely care, and it happens when it is needed.
Repealing section 82A will enable more trained health practitioners to respect women's decision-making capacity and provide that better health care for them no matter where they live in our state. This is the healthcare service that almost half of the women and girls of our state will at some stage need. One proposition often put by many who have not thought these things through is: why are any pregnancies unplanned in this day and age? It is a question, of course, of magical thinking, for when one looks at the facts—and the World Health Organization has examined this—even if couples use contraceptives correctly 100 per cent of the time there would still be close to six million unplanned pregnancies every single year.
Across the globe, both contraception and contraceptive users are fallible. Australians are no different. Why would we be? We are all human, and contraception is, of course, fallible. Unplanned pregnancy is a key health issue for Australian women, with an estimated 51 per cent of women and girls faced with an unplanned pregnancy at some stage of their lives. Of course, not every unplanned pregnancy is unwanted, but women commonly will be faced with a decision about what is the best option for them and their families in their circumstance.
In 2006, Marie Stopes International commissioned the research, 'What women want when faced with an unplanned pregnancy'. That survey found that 60 per cent of women were using at least one form of contraception at the time of their unplanned pregnancy. The largest group of those women, some 43 per cent, who were using contraception were on the pill, while 22 per cent were using a condom. Regardless of their choice of contraceptive method, those women were more likely to choose parenthood than abortion in the event of that unplanned pregnancy. The only exception to this trend were a significant number of women—some 21 per cent—who were using more than one method of contraception at the time of their unplanned pregnancy, clearly taking all steps to ensure that they did not fall pregnant.
These women were just as likely to choose abortion as parenting if they fell pregnant, suggesting that some women with a clear desire to avoid having a child may, of course, be taking those extra steps to avoid unplanned pregnancy. Parenting was the most common means by which Australian women of all ages resolved their unplanned pregnancy, with nearly half the sample, some 49 per cent, choosing parenthood, 31 per cent choosing abortion, 2 per cent choosing adoption and the remaining 18 per cent of those women or girls experiencing a miscarriage. While the most common reason that women gave for choosing parenthood was being 'happy to parent', at 84 per cent, another 8 per cent said they felt pressured by significant others to parent and 7 per cent said they chose parenthood because they lacked information about abortion or access to abortion services.
At 70 per cent, respondents' most common reason given for choosing abortion was their lack of readiness for parenthood. The second most nominated reason was the desire to avoid being a single mother, some 32 per cent of those women; and the next, 28 per cent, their status, including that of being a student. Of the women who chose adoption, lack of support from a partner to parent or being unemployed, being pressured by significant others to adopt, and lack of support from parents, relatives, friends and clergy for their parenting were amongst the reasons they gave for choosing adoption. For 44 per cent of those women, their partner's unwillingness to parent was the reason for that choice, while 31 per cent said they resolved their pregnancy by adoption because they were unable to have an abortion.
Abortion is, of course, a common, safe, health procedure but it is the only one criminalised in our state. Members would be well aware that abortion law reform has most recently been undertaken in Queensland, and this very week the laws that passed there have come into effect. It is soon likely to occur in New South Wales. Prior to receiving that letter from the SA Abortion Action Coalition earlier this year, most members probably would not have even known how far South Australia had to go. We are seeing a nationwide—and when one looks across the globe including Ireland, a worldwide pushed to treat abortion as a health issue not a criminal one.
Debate is common across the country and across the world, and when people ask how one can treat abortion as a healthcare matter and not a criminal one, as if this was some new chartered territory on which an intrepid explorer might create a path never before trod, I note that one need just look to Canada and the leadership of Trudeau in that country. And when I say Trudeau, I do not mean Justin; I mean his dad, Pierre. They have been doing it for decades. Closer to home, of course, we have seen Victoria and in 2002, some 16 years ago, I remember well when the ACT became the very first Australian jurisdiction to completely remove abortion from the criminal law, and I commend all involved in that campaign. I was working at the YWCA at the time and they were heavily involved in that particular campaign in the ACT, and I commend the work there of Erica Lewis.
But even there, again, the well-intentioned provisions, inserted seemingly to assist, have actually turned into barriers for care. Medical practitioners in the ACT can now perform abortions at approved facilities, which was thought quite possible in a small geographical area such as the ACT, but even there it is not workable for their very small territory, as opposed to how unworkable it is here in South Australia with our vast expanse. A cautionary word: that particular provision is now why the ACT parliament is set to debate a bill to allow women to access abortion by telemedicine, nurse practitioners or their GP, because those well-intentioned additions did not keep pace with the medical advancement and still treated abortion as somehow different to other medical procedures.
Of course, in the public debate we will see opponents of choice portray later term abortions as somehow not a health procedure. Despite the fact that later term abortions comprise only a tiny, tiny fraction of those abortions that will be performed, they will, no doubt, take on the major feature of public debate on this bill.
I would like to share with members today the story of a woman who chose to have a late-term abortion so that her baby would not suffer. Her name is Ashleigh Foley, and she shared her story in support of abortion law reform, testifying at the Queensland parliamentary health committee's hearings on the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018. She did that earlier this year. Listen to her words:
My name is Ashleigh Foley and I am a woman who has had an abortion.
I am writing this to tell you about my son, Thomas Andrew, and the heartbreaking choice we made in regards to ending his life before it had the chance to begin.
My story is the story of a late-term termination. I made the choice, along with my partner, with my family's best interests at heart. I did not do it flippantly, as some groups who are against abortion in any circumstances would have you believe. My choice was a deeply personal one and the current laws made it much more difficult.
My first pregnancy was unexpected, but as the months rolled by, we became excited about becoming parents. We told our families and started to prepare for our new lives. This excitement ended when we had our morphology scan. That was the moment that we received the news. It was not news that we dreaded…it was news that we never even considered a possibility.
Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele with Arnold Chiari Malformation. The words I will never forget. We asked the big question: 'Will our baby be brain damaged or will he have any mental capabilities at all?'
The doctor said that, while she could not be 100 per cent certain, the chance of him having any awareness was very, very slim. Our baby was facing an incredibly hard life. I would have to have a C-section before my due date. Our baby would have needed surgery immediately after birth to place a shunt in his brain. In a subsequent ultrasound, we were also informed that he had severe scoliosis that caused his spine to curve in a way that would have made it impossible for a wheelchair to be used without multiple corrective surgeries.
Once we had made the heartbreaking decision to terminate our much-wanted pregnancy, we were informed that as we were close to hitting 22 weeks of gestation, the current laws regarding terminations in Queensland meant we would have to have our choice approved by a Hospital Ethics Committee, with their decision being based solely on the risks to my own mental health rather than the physical health and poor quality of life my baby was faced with.
We did not want to have to stand in front of that committee of hospital officials who would take the decision away from us, and who would be making a decision solely based on complying with the law. We were sure of our decision, the best one for our family in the difficult circumstances. We did not want to have to ask permission for it.
Eleven days after finding out our baby was sick we checked into the hospital to go through with our termination. We were given a private room in the maternity ward as the birthing suites were for expectant mothers—a class of patient to which I no longer belonged. We had many people coming in, so much paperwork. We were talked through the procedures—the tablets, what they would do. Did we want an autopsy? Could they use his body for research?
We were suddenly left alone. Waiting for my body to accept the medication and go into labour. It was slow. It was exhausting. It was the most painful thing I have ever been through—both physically and emotionally. My labour kicked in a few hours after I was given the medication. I tried to sleep but the pain was so intense. The midwives kept giving me painkillers but my body was just not ready. I was not meant to be having a baby at 21 weeks.
I gave birth to my beautiful boy at 2.07am on July 11, 2014. We named him Thomas Andrew.
We spent 12 sorrowful hours with my baby. We had a naming ceremony for him and held him tight. We held him, cried for him and showed him as much love as we could in our short time together.
Since saying goodbye to my son, I have fought for a woman's right to choose. By legalising abortion, I believe that there will be an increase in the support systems offered to other women in my position. I believe that hospitals won't put women like me in front of an ethics committee because of the archaic laws in our state…I believe that society will be more tolerant and that the stigma surrounding abortion will decline.
Not every woman who has an abortion will need support, but it should be there if they ask for it.
Not every woman will want to speak openly about their abortion, but they should not be called a murderer by those who don't agree.
I have been asked many times over the last four years if I regret my abortion. The answer is no.
I regret not having more time to process what was happening. I regret that I felt I had to rush my procedure to avoid being forced to sit in front of that ethics committee. I regret not being able to hold my boy for longer. I regret not taking the blanket he was wrapped in home with me. I regret not getting more photos.
But I will never regret my abortion.
I chose to break my own heart, rather than allow my baby to suffer.
My heart breaks for Ashleigh and her partner. My hope is that no women in our state will feel the undue pressure of criminal sanction when faced with the emotional and difficult decision that faces those women seeking later term abortions, but I know that they do. It is currently women like Ashleigh who will often be forced to run the gauntlet in those most vulnerable tear-stained days, those darkest days, and it is a ghoulish gauntlet that they are subjected to.
It is well known to many who work in the provision of abortion health care that protesters often frequent outside clinics. Indeed, the 40 Days for Life vigil outside the Pregnancy Advisory Centre is well known to patients and staff alike. They deal with protest outside their workplace and outside their place of health care far too often. Those protesters have even set up a shop across the road that sells recycled baby gear. That shop will not be criminalised by this bill. However, the actions of transgressing and invading the privacy and dignity of woman seeking health care, within 150 metres of that healthcare service, certainly will be. Patients deserve protection and healthcare workers deserve occupational health and safety. This bill contains provisions for a safe access zone. It provides that protection for 150 metres around prescribed areas, including, of course, that Woodville clinic.
I note that this area is already enacted, I believe, in every other jurisdiction across this country. I note that in Victoria and Tasmania it is the subject of a High Court challenge, and we may well see that constitutional challenge have its findings around about February. I cannot help but reflect that it is a Queenslander who is taking the Tasmanian government to court over that matter. While there is 150 metres' protection at the end of that long journey, I do know that those who protest will go to great lengths to do so, and I believe that they are the ones who should be criminalised, not the patients seeking health protection.
Under this bill, women seeking health care will no longer be treated as criminals, but make no mistake, those who seek to harass them will be. This debate will be deeply felt, but there is no need for threats, intimidation and harassment. I put on notice today the Canadian-based religious group who have organised a campaign to call my office and harass myself and my staff. A disturbing call and threat yesterday was made over the phone to one of my staff members, purportedly at the behest of the CEO of a Canadian religious group, to demand that I not pursue this bill today.
In that call, the caller stated that his group was international and that the CEO of that group had asked him, and others in the group, to call my office, stating that he was a member of the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform. He noted in his call that he had concerns about late-term abortion. My staff civilly explained that it is a doctor and the woman who decide where an abortion is required.
The man then stated that he would send my staff member videos of babies being smashed with hammers as they were removed from the womb. He then stated that if she believed people could do what they liked with their bodies, then it would be alright if he came and raped her. He said to her, repeatedly and aggressively, that he would rape her. She hung up on the call visibly upset and in tears. I hugged her and asked her what happened.
He should not have been able to threaten her this way, and I note that it is indeed a criminal matter. We have reported this to SAPOL, and we will pursue each and every such threat made. I cannot help but note that threatening to rape a member of my staff is in itself a criminal act, and it simply underscores why women seeking abortion need to stop being categorised as criminals.
As the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition media release of 18 October noted, when abortion was finally decriminalised on that historic day for Queensland, Queensland then joined the other jurisdictions, both in Australia and around the world, in recognising abortion as a health matter. That statement from SAAAC said that abortion law in South Australia is outdated, inadequate and discriminatory, and must be repealed so that health professionals can provide women with the best possible abortion care.
South Australia was the first Australian jurisdiction to pass legislation to liberalise abortion law, but this half century old legislation is no longer fit for purpose. It is time to decriminalise abortion in South Australia. I could not agree more and note that many in the community, in the medical profession and the legal worlds do as well. It is now time to let them have their voices on this matter, for a public debate to commence that is assisted by the best legal minds and the best medical information. Indeed, it is the voices of the medical profession and the women who face this choice that should be heard the loudest in this debate.
I say to them that any choice may well be a difficult one, it may be heartbreaking, it may be welcome, but that choice is not one that should be made by a politician in a parliament on their behalf any longer. It is time for us here in this place to listen. If we are to support choice and the treatment of abortion as a health and not a criminal matter then part of that must be reflecting on the individual circumstances, the expertise and the insights that are before us and available to us.
It may well be the most difficult decision a woman makes, or it may be a decision of some relief, but the bottom line is that it is a health decision for that woman and it should no longer sit in our criminal law. Over the summer break in this place I certainly know that the list I read out of the SA Abortion Action Coalition supporters is great, but it is growing. The list of supporters and experts in the legal and medical profession around the country who have an interest in helping us get the best bill to provide the best health care for women in our state is great.
I look forward to further discussions, respectful discourse, decisions made on information rather than on rhetoric and bringing this bill back in the new year. With those words, I seek leave to conclude my comments in the new year on Wednesday 27 February.