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Speech: Termination of Pregnancy Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise to associate myself with the remarks made by the Minister for Human Services, Michelle Lensink, and the Minister for Health and Wellbeing, the Hon. Stephen Wade. Currently, in March 2021, abortion remains a crime in South Australia, punishable by up to life imprisonment. We once led; we now lag.

Today, it is time to move forward. Today, I hope we will see that step forward that ensures every person's experience of abortion will mean they no longer encounter laws that constrain possibilities for their medical practitioners and health services to provide them the best possible health care. I hope from the time this act comes into force that pregnant people will be treated with the respect that they have not necessarily been treated with in some parts of this debate.

There is, of course, abortion stigma in the community and there has been abortion stigma in the parliament. It has been why our archaic laws—over 50 years old—have not been touched by this parliament and have not been reformed as they should but also why the extraordinary work of the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition, which formed some six or so years ago, is to be commended. They have mounted the case for law reform, which was a compelling case, and they are to be congratulated on ensuring that those who seek abortion in this state will be treated with respect for their decisions and that their medical professionals will not be impaired by 50-plus year old laws that are in fact a barrier to that health care.

Indeed, it is why in 2018 I moved a bill in this place to decriminalise abortion in this state. Certainly, the debate sparked by that bill saw the SALRI review and I commend SALRI for their fine work. The extraordinary efforts that went into that work I think ensured that the debate in this place and in the other was able to be based on fact and not on stigma.

I commend, in the other place, Minister Chapman, the Attorney, for her stewardship but also the shadow ministers Hildyard, Cook and Close, as well as the member for Cheltenham, Joe Szakacs. In this place, the leadership of the Hon. Irene Pnevmatikos and the Hon. Connie Bonaros must be noted and, indeed, the expert whipping abilities of the Hon. Ian Hunter, which, whilst not to the forefront, were invaluable.

I also thank the staff and advisers, not just my own, who have been subjected to personal abuse and unacceptable behaviours, but those who have across party lines rallied together. In particular, Madeleine Church, Ingo Block and Anna Tree have done an extraordinary amount of work to get us to this place.

Today, we bring our abortion laws into the 21st century, some 21 years into this 21st century. Make no mistake, you can ban abortion, but it will not stop abortion—it will simply stop safe abortion. I hope this law goes some way to ensuring that we stop the stigma around abortion. Abortion is health care and it should be provided in a way that is accessible, that is available publicly and that is safe and preferably without the stigma that we have seen. Quite often in our society, we trust people to be mothers but we do not trust them to make a choice whether to be a mother.

I have been struck that we have actually demonised those people in the most difficult and distressing situations, those who do require a termination of their pregnancy in the later stages of that pregnancy. Previously in debates I have quoted from an open letter that was written by these very people to Donald Trump, the then President of the United States. They, in their open letter, responded that they knew what late abortion meant because they were the families who had gotten them. That quote was:

We are later abortion patients and their partners who are concerned with the politicization of this issue at the expense of both truth and compassion. While we do not speak for every later abortion patient and do not pretend to represent everyone who seeks this care, we can speak for ourselves and our families.

The stories we hear being told about later abortion…are not our stories. They do not reflect our choices or experiences. These hypothetical patients don't sound like us or the other patients we know.

The barbarous, unethical doctors in these scenarios don't sound like the people who gave us compassionate care.

Our cases, the ones that would be affected by [banning later abortions] constitute a relatively small number of abortions.

So while these cases are incredibly rare and specific to each patient's unique circumstances, they are being broadly misrepresented and are playing an outsized role on the [American] national stage.

The decision to terminate a pregnancy is never a political one, it is a personal one.

They conclude with the words that have rung in my ears many a time as I have heard mischaracterisations of these people who are in the most difficult situation that we will ever see a person face:

We are not monsters. We are your family, your neighbours, someone you love. We are you, just in different circumstances.

None of us here would want to be them, but all of us here, I would hope, will now support them. This decision is a personal one and the parliament, of course, is a political institution, but in passing this legislation we trust these people and we trust their medical professionals and that is something I wholeheartedly welcome today.

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