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Speech: Termination Of Pregnancy Bill – 2nd Reading Speech

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise with great pleasure today to support the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020 and associate myself with the remarks of my honourable colleague Mark Parnell and the Hon. Ian Hunter in congratulating the Marshall government for allowing this debate to happen.

The mover, the Minister for Human Services, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, has brought this to us in private business time, but with the resources that have been afforded to this bill and the substantial body of work and research that have been afforded to this bill by ministers who did not stand in its way. Also, I particularly congratulate the leadership here of the Attorney-General.

The bill comes before us as a result of the SALRI recommendation, that SALRI report of October last year, which is an extensive tome and that we have all had at our disposal, couched—

The PRESIDENT: Order! There are a couple of conversations that are interrupting the honourable member and I ask that she be heard in silence.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: That SALRI report will be a great resource for us as members of parliament on what is a difficult conscience issue and what, for many members, will be the first time they have had to consider a bill in great detail that is actually quite a substantial piece of legislation and that will have an impact on many lives in South Australia. I thank the leadership of the Marshall government for getting us to this place.

It will come as no surprise to members of this council that, given I brought a decriminalisation bill for abortion to this place in 2018 following the state election with the hope that it be referred to SALRI for that extensive work and research to take place, I am very supportive of the intention to decriminalise abortion in this state. The bill before us does that: it removes abortion from the criminal law. It also removes the gestational limits for surgical termination, which is in line with the SALRI recommendations. It removes the requirements for unnecessary and obstructive barriers to access abortion in this state.

Should you not be a resident of this state, you have to wait two months before you qualify for that medical care. That is an extraordinary imposition on people's lives when they are making a very difficult decision. For those who say they do not want abortion to happen later, the removal of the two-month barrier, that waiting time, should be warmly welcomed by those people, but I have yet to hear them warmly welcome that great initiative and move forward.

Very simply put, the bill ensures that we treat abortion as health care and regulate it in health legislation where we have lawful access to abortion, rather than keep it in the criminal code. Quite proudly, we have public funding and excellent health services in this state. The doctors, the medical professionals and the people who are pregnant have to tread lightly around a series of lines drawn by parliament 50 years ago, which put barriers in their way such as that two-month waiting period for non-residents and such as having to be in a prescribed hospital to receive early abortion medication of two pills over a series of two or three days, forcing rural and regional women in particular to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometres simply to access something that, should they live just the other side of the border, they could potentially access via telehealth or at their local clinics.

In South Australia, we make those people travel inordinate amounts of distances unnecessarily, putting them at risk as they miscarry on their return home, requiring them to find care for other children, requiring them to take time off work, potentially booking hotel accommodation, indeed putting those financial barriers in their way as well. It is not good enough that we have allowed this 50-year-old law to exist, preventing the access to termination that we have deemed by this parliament to be lawful and to be worthy of public support. When it comes to bureaucracy, we are happy to make individuals' lives as difficult as possible.

This bill draws a line. Often in debates about abortion there is much debate about where the line is to be drawn, and this bill does draw a line at 22 weeks and six days. The line I would like to talk about today is not that line where at that point it would be on medical grounds and require that two doctors sign off. I would like to talk about the line that we have drawn as members of parliament that it is us who know best, that it is us in this parliament, rather than that woman and her medical team, who should make that decision.

The line that I would like to draw today is that this parliament cannot anticipate every single experience that medical team and that pregnant person might find themselves in. Somebody carries a, most likely, much-wanted child to the third trimester. She has chosen a name, painted the nursery and picked out baby clothes and is then faced with a medical decision, due to the advanced technology that we have—the scans and medical reports she may have received—that is probably the worst decision of her life. The idea that this parliament can understand and anticipate every single situation somebody in that terrible situation might find themselves in is quite offensive.

The line I want to draw today is that we finally start to trust the medical profession and we start to trust women. They are the experts in their own lives. They are the experts in that particular experience. They are the only ones able to make that decision. The decision we make with this bill is to empower the doctors and the pregnant person to make that decision given their set of circumstances.

Quite simply, this is a bill that updates our 50-year-old laws that were once progressive, when South Australia had a reputation for respecting women's reproductive rights and trusting doctors. I hope that today is the first step in bringing us into the 21st century and for us becoming the last place in Australia to decriminalise abortion and drawing that line that we do trust women and their medical teams.

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