9 Oct 2008, Comments Off on View from inside the House: Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation bill diary

View from inside the House: Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation bill diary

Author: Helen

A bit of background: Colleen Hartland is my local Greens member for the Legislative Council, Western Metropolitan region. I know her to say hello to. She’s an approachable person who likes to chat to people in the electorate about the things that bother them. I know her mostly from meetings about transport and crossing safety issues, but she’s active on the abortion decriminalisation front as well and featured in an AGE article about the abortion she herself had when she was young.

The abortion decriminalisation bill, having passed the lower house, is being debated in the Upper house (Legislative Council).

Wednesday 8 September: Colleen reports from da House!

The Abortion Law Reform Bill debate adjourned at 10pm last night, and started again this afternoon, after debate finished on a Liberal party motion on another topic.

We have now heard from 16 MPs, of which ten have indicated they will vote in favour of the Bill at “Second Reading” – that is, they support the Bill in principle, and will let it progress to the next debate stage, which is called the “committee” stage.

Today’s debate has been fascinating. I recommend anyone following the debate via Hansard to read the extraordinary speech by Shaun Leane (ALP) when it is published overnight. It joins speeches by Andrea Coote (Libs) and Jenny Mikakos (ALP) yesterday, which I thought were outstanding.

There are still about a dozen MPs on the speaking list tonight. Yesterday they spoke for an average 30 minutes each (I only spoke for about ten minutes), so don’t expect a result any time soon. As I write this, Bernie Finn (Libs) has been speaking for about an hour, and for the first time I have left the chamber.

I was surprised and delighted to receive brief messages from so many of you yesteday evening, including people who listened to my speech on the live broadcast , or read it on the website. My staff forwarded me some of the messages in Parliament, and they gave me a strong feeling of being part of a supportive, caring community during an exhausting sitting week.

These updates are going to about 500 people who asked me to vote for a woman’s right to choose. I was already pro-choice, but you have given me the courage to stand up and speak with your strength and support. This included my very difficult decision to go public about having had an abortion. I am sure that brief, warm supportive emails to other pro-choice MPs would also be appreciated.

You may have heard that pro-choice MPs are receiving abusive emails after speaking. I have been inundated with those emails, each one nastier than the last. If the anti-choice brigade ever needed to convince us that they are abusive, misogynist bullies who want to impose their choices on others, they have achieved that aim, with bells on! Mind you, yesterday one email spat “the BRAZEN nerve of you”, and I’m taking that as a compliment.

I expect we will sit later tonight than last night, because of the delay in starting the debate. I will send a message with the results of the “second reading” vote, if we get there.

Thursday 9 September:

Nineteen MPs have now spoken, of which eleven have indicated that they will vote for the Abortion Law Reform Bill at second reading.

When I sent my last email to this group*, at about 6.30pm yesterday, I said that Bernie Finn (Libs) had been speaking for over an hour. He kept speaking after the dinner break, and hadn’t finished at 10pm when the house adjourned. He started again this morning and kept talking, give or take lunch and question time, until 2.45pm this afternoon. I’m not entirely sure he stopped when we all went home overnight.

Mr Kavanaugh (DLP) is now speaking. So far it sounds like a repeat of Mr Finn’s arguments, but with a softer voice. He has anticipated that he will speak for some time.

It’s as though the anti-choice advocates have realised that they can’t win the argument on legal or moral grounds, and instead they’re trying to starve us out.

Mr Finn’s arguments, while lengthy, were not new to me, so his speech gave me over five hours to reflect and achieve perspective on the contributions so far.

One of the clearest truths, from all the speakers, including some of the anti choice speakers, is that this Bill won’t change the number of abortions carried out in Victoria. All it will do is improve safety for the women and the medical practitioners. Nothing else will change if it passes.

Women still wouldn’t make their decision in a vacuum. They still have to deal with society. I nearly cheered when Shaune Leane (ALP) suggested that the 2,000 people who have lobbied him against abortion, should instead send protest notes to their local media outlet when it vilifies single mothers in his extraordinary speech yesterday.

Jenny Mikakos (ALP) made an argument for practicing Christians such as herself, who would never choose abortion themselves, to nevertheless support the Bill in her speech on Tuesday. Jaala Pulford (ALP) said this afternoon that, worldwide, the abortion rate has no correlation to the legality of abortion, but instead to the place of women in society.

Ironically, some anti-choice advocates are frightened that this Bill will give too many rights to women, when it is an increase in women’s rights that will decrease the number of abortions.

Mr Theophanous (ALP) was the first speaker this afternoon to refer directly to proposed amendments, which he has circulated. The amendments relate to abortion after 24 weeks gestation. He argues that some of a woman’s reasons for abortion have more validity than others, and his proposed amendments reflect this view. My Greens colleagues and I will vote against them.

There will be up to 20 more speakers before we reach the first vote, which is the vote at the end of “second reading”. My best guess is that the vote will take place tomorrow morning, after which we will start debating proposed amendments.

Usually we don’t sit on Fridays. We’ve only done it once since I was elected. I think we should sit every day until the debate is concluded. I don’t think that delay tactics should be rewarded, when the result would be to leave the public hanging on a decision by 40 members of parliament. Particularly when I think the decision should belong to each individual woman.

If you want, you can send messages of support to colleenDOThartlandATparliamentDOTvicDOTcomDOTau.

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