Tags: victorian parliament

11 Oct 2008, Comments Off on Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation diary: Bill passed without amendments!

Colleen Hartland’s decriminalisation diary: Bill passed without amendments!

Author: Helen

Update from Colleen Hartland last night:

The Abortion Law Reform Bill has passed through both houses of Victorian Parliament without amendment, and will therefore become law.

After the second reading, a large number of amendments were proposed, which I feared would create a law that would take away women’s rights, and perhaps even lead to women being forced into illegal back yard abortions.

The amendments related to some reasons for abortion were more valid than others, reducing a woman’s right to choose from 24 weeks, to 14 weeks or 12 weeks, bringing in various different types of doctors to make the decision for the woman, and so on. I voted against each of the amendments.

I hope you will forgive me for not giving detail about my reasons for my vote on each of the amendments – it has been a long week, and we sat until 3am last night. If you’d like more information, please check Hansard when it is published overnight – Sue Pennicuik MLC gave reasons on behalf of the three Greens MPs, with Greg Barber clarifying our position a couple of times. Please also have a look at Sue Pennicuik’s speeches in the second reading debate late last night.

I am happy to say that all of the amendments lost by a greater margin than the second reading vote.

We were then asked to vote one final time on the Bill as a whole. The Bill finally passed, with 23 MPs voting in favour, and 17 against. I’ll give you three guesses how I voted!

It was quite an emotional moment, and an incredible relief. The pro choice campaigners spilled out of the public gallery to join the pro choice MPs in Queen’s Hall, and there was a great deal of hugging, a few tears and bizarrely enough, whispering until suddenly one of the women started applauding and everyone took up the applause. It was very emotional to see long standing pro choice campaigners like Jo Wainer, Marilyn Beaumont and others standing together with Candy Broad MLC (ALP) whose brave attempt to introduce a private member’s bill last year paved the way for the government bill that finally passed, and Andrea Coote (Libs) whose brilliant analysis and skill was so influential before and during the debate. It was lovely to see women from different political parties hugging. There were so many amazing women present, I’m afraid I have neglected to mention some – Leslie Cannold, the womens health organisations. Earlier in the day, former Premier Joan Kirner was present, and Carolyn Hirsh. Joan got a feminist guard of honour when she walked out the back door at Parliament House, after the Bill passed second reading, and a special round of applause tonight.

I would like to thank you for the part that you played in decriminalising abortion. You have engaged in the process. You have written to one or more MPs, using respectful language, giving information and inspiration that has assisted this result. Some of you have shared life stories that have touched my heart. I am grateful for each of the emails that you have sent. I am sure that the result would have been different, if you had not become involved.

No, thank you, Colleen. I wasn’t the one sitting up till dawn listening to Bernie Finn waffle on for six hours .

This is the first time I have sent updates during a parliament process. I felt that it was the right thing to do, as so many people urged me to vote for abortion law reform, and I felt a duty to report back to let you know the result of your contribution, without making you wait for a week during a long debate.

Throughout the debate, pro choice MPs from different political parties worked together, with assistance and advice. I feel that the conscience vote brought out the best in all of us.

Emervents has blogged Colleen’s emails here, here, and here, and she has also provided a list of email addresses and a sample letter to thank all the MLCs who voted for the Bill.

A big thank you to Colleen. Now have a big sleep in!

I’d also like to thank the “Tell the Truth coalition” and their sympathisers for completely alienating and disgusting many waverers in the Parliament and helping to convince them that the anti-choicers weren’t presenting a logical or sane position. Great work, guys!

2 Sep 2008, Comments Off on Religious hijacking of abortion debate in Victoria (yes, totally expected)

Religious hijacking of abortion debate in Victoria (yes, totally expected)

Author: Helen

The bill to decriminalise abortion – giving the decision to the woman up to 24 weeks and requiring two doctors’ signoff afterwards – is before the Victorian parliament. And the coverage by the local broadsheet, the AGE, has been appalling. (State political editor Paul Austin, I’m looking at you.) Today there was a report of a head-smackingly awful development, made worse by a headline that misrepresents the facts completely:

Top Scientist says ‘No’ to Abortion Bill

* Nick Miller and Leo Shanahan
* September 2, 2008

LATE-TERM abortion “survivor” Gianna Jessen will address a meeting at Victoria’s Parliament House in a bid to sway politicians over proposed abortion laws.
The meeting will also hear from Victorian scientist and surgeon Graeme Clark, inventor of the bionic ear.
The 2004 Australian Father of the Year will tell the meeting that he is not anti-abortion in all circumstances, but he believes the proposed Victorian law is not the best solution.
Under the bill, which has the support of Premier John Brumby but not some members of his cabinet, abortions will be decriminalised up to 24 weeks and after that will be legal if approved by at least two doctors.
The meeting was arranged by an inter-faith religious group and all Victorian MPs are invited.
Ms Jessen arrived in Canberra yesterday to lobby senators to support a separate bill, proposed by Liberal senator Guy Barnett, that would result in the abolition of Medicare funding for abortions conducted between 14 and 26 weeks.
Ms Jessen, who has cerebral palsy as a result of being deprived of oxygen during a botched abortion at 7½ months, will put her case to senators over the next two days….

First of all, do you see what they did there? The byline gives the clear impression that a Top Scientist has come up with some, you know, scientific reason for not decriminalising abortion. If you read the article, it’s nothing of the kind. He’s one of two celebrity speakers engaged by the godbag lobby group the Australian Christian Lobby, and he’s speaking as an ordinary (if celebrated) citizen who is personally squicked by the idea of abortion, even though he isn’t even 100% against it.

Second, Guy Barnett’s medicare bill. I’ll get around to that I hope, but tonight I’m mainly concerned about the “meeting” itself. And thirdly, again, they’ve managed to make the debate “about” late-term abortion – which is the rarest kind and may even get more rare once women don’t have to jump through legalistic hoops to have an earlier one.

It’s simply pandering to the religious right by the Victorian parliament. What can possibly be the Brumby government’s excuse? OK, some questions for you, Mr Brumby:

*Even if it’s sponsored by an outside group, this must be consuming Parliamentary resources (venue, catering) and the time of government and opposition MPs, whose salaries we pay. What is the cost of this meeting going to be?
*Why does the Australian Christian Lobby get to hold this meeting at Parliament house? Surely this is according them rights above and beyond the normal ability of community groups to protest tabled legislation. Other groups, like the anti-pipe protesters and Blue Wedges, have been snubbed and also sued by this government. Why the preferential treatment?
*Will a pro-choice organisation, such as ProChoice Vic., be invited to conduct a similar meeting with speakers of their choice, so as to provide some balance?

Some information about the godbags organising this thing:

Two other organisations that both began in 1995 with a Christian right focus and agenda were the Australian Christian Coalition, now known as the Australian Christian Lobby, and Salt Shakers. The Australian Christian Lobby has its headquarters in Canberra with State Offices, whilst Salt Shakers has a single office in Melbourne. Over time the Australian Christian Lobby has moved from the political right to a centre right position whilst Salt Shakers has not. Both have had their wins and losses over the 11 years that they have been operating.

Gianna Jessen is a singer who works the lecture circuit as an anti-abortion agitator with a unique selling point: she’s a late abortion survivor with cerebral palsy. Now I know that having cerebral palsy sucks mightily, and she would naturally have issues with her biological mother. However, unlike many people with CP in this country, she has made a nice little earner out of her vanishingly rare situation; here’s her booking agent. She wouldn’t be speaking for free; presumably the ACL paid for her. They should have also had to pay for a venue of their own instead of being given a forum in our (supposedly) democratic Houses of Parliament.

So, what should be a parliamentary debate is being biased by forced-birther organisations with money and influence. Not happy, John (Brumby).

Against abortion? Don't have one

The bill to legalise abortion has been introduced into the Victorian parliament. You’ll remember that that’s the one with the options A, B and C.

The Bill allows unrestricted abortions in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, but termination would have to be approved by two doctors after 24 weeks.

That looks to me like the draft bill has gone with option B – Choice for women up to 24 weeks but with legal constraints imposed after that. Option C would have left the choice completely in the hands of the pregnant woman. Therefore, this bill, if it becomes law, won’t stop forced-birthers hounding and harassing women who need an abortion after 24 weeks – and their doctors.

This, of course, is because of the persistent idea that women are all mad keen to get very late term abortions just for the hell of it— an idea which I find very stupid, but it seems to persist along with the myth that the ALP (State and Federal) still has any tenuous connection with progressive thought. Fortunately, while forced-birthers like to create the impression that the typical abortion is late-term, these are relatively rare and may be even more rare if women aren’t delayed by the fear of illegality and delays from mandatory “pregnancy counselling”. That would benefit the majority of women who don’t even come within cooee of 24 weeks. But will the bill even go through as it is?

The coverage in the local paper today consisted of a human interest story about Greens MP Colleen Hartland, who I know and like, and a short drive-by interview with Labor MP Christine Campbell. Here’s what Campbell has to say:

WOMEN who are considering an abortion need more information and better decision-making counselling, Labor MP Christine Campbell has warned.
With legislation to decriminalise abortion expected to be introduced into State Parliament today, Ms Campbell said: “My big concern is that everyone’s so hell bent on decriminalising abortion, we might forget to put in place the support and care systems that women and couples need.”
Ms Campbell, who is expected to vote against decriminalisation, said she is leading a “Living Labor” group to push for amendments to protect women, whatever the result of the vote.

Maybe there were space constraints – heaven knows there was TEH SPORT taking first priority – but this leaves a few pertinent facts out, mainly that Christine Campbell is specifically anti-choice, and that in this country “women who are considering an abortion need more information and better decision-making counselling” is code for “women need to be badgered out of having an abortion and should definitely not be referred for same.”

Exhibit A: the former Federal government’s “pregnancy counselling” centres, run by religious anti-choice groups, which were the subject of a GetUp campaign, Stop Deceiving Women, because they concealed the true nature of their operations and advertised as if they were a neutral service. When Democrats senator Natasha Stott Despoja introduced the Pregnancy Counselling (Truth in Advertising) Bill in 2007 to counter this practice, Federal Labor refused to support it.

The bottom line is that social conservative Labor says that you can’t be trusted with your own body. I say that I don’t trust them with my reproductive rights.

After sitting on the decriminalisation-of-abortion report for some months, the Victorian Parliament has reported that it’s set to vote sometime soon on decriminalisation.

There are three options. The AGE report on Friday, annoyingly, didn’t put the details on the web, just the news report, so I’ll transcribe them here:

Option A: A doctor would have to assess whether continuation of the pregnancy posed a risk of harm to the woman. A doctor who performed an abortion when not satisfied of risk of harm would be guilty of professional misconduct.

Option B: A woman’s consent provides lawful authority for an abortion up to 24 weeks’ gestation. After that point, an abortion would only be lawful when either one or two doctors deemed continuing the pregnancy would pose a risk of harm to the woman. Doctors who performed an abortion unlawfully would be guilty of professional misconduct.

Option C (Based on the model used in the ACT and Canada): A woman is the final decision-maker throughout her pregnancy. No abortion “on demand” as a doctor must still agree that an abortion is ethically and clinically appropriate. Unlawful abortions include those conducted without the woman’s consent and performed by unqualified people.

Like Leslie Cannold at ProChoice Victoria, it’s my opinion that only option C is the one that trusts women to make the right decision for their bodies, themselves and their families. Option A is similar to the existing Menhennit Ruling coded into law, and would possibly make things worse. Option B is slightly better, but still operates on the principle that if we don’t forcibly prevent women from having abortions after 24 weeks, they’ll all be doing it. (And do you notice they find it necessary to write “still no abortion on demand! “Because we enjoy it so much, we’ll be rocking up and demanding them for no reason. It’s a myth that just never dies.)

It’s important that we all write to our local MP and/or the ministers for Health and Womens’ affairs, because the “pro-life” lobby is always many times more vocal and organised than most of us. The commission reported that roughly 90% of the community is pro-choice, while about 80% of the submissions they received were from the forced-birthers.

Elsewhere, they’re trying to wind back the gains women have made in the last thirty years. The push for an abortion ban is on again in South Dakota. In Britain, the conservative MP Nadine Dorries recently caused the parliament vote on reducing the abortion limit from 24 to 20 weeks (the “20 reasons for 20 weeks” campaign.) That was defeated last week, 393 to 71. And crowds of assorted loonies still turn up to make life hard (and dangerous) at fertility clinics – Hey, props to you, Anonymous Lefty.

Click here to send an email to all Victorian MPs to support option C.

27 Jul 2007, Comments Off on Piker


Author: Helen

Pike, v. colloq., ~ on, withdraw timidly from. [ME, perh.f.PIKE1]


While the news fairly swirls with drama– the phoney election campaign, the Mohamed Haneef disgrace, the sellout of the Tasmanian wilderness, the near-inevitability of Nukular Power and interest rate rises, and the departure of both Sheeds and Pagan in one week– you might not have noticed that something fairly important is happening down here in Victoria. To all you un-Australians, that’s the bit down the bottom- no, not that bit hanging off the bottom, that’s Tasmania, we’ve given up on that- the bottom of the mainland. Not a Turtle has noticed:

The Victorian Parliament may vote on the decriminalisation of abortion as early as next month.

The decriminalisation of abortion. Read that again, just in case you missed it.

According to article 65 of the Crimes Act (1958) – yes folks, nineteen fifty eight:

65 Abortion
Whosoever being a woman with child with intent to procure her own miscarriage unlawfully administers to herself any poison or other noxious thing or unlawfully uses any instrument or other means, and whosoever with intent to procure the miscarriage of any woman whether she is or is not with child unlawfully administers to her or causes to be taken by her any poison or other noxious thing, or unlawfully uses any instrument or other means with the like intent, shall be guilty of an indictable offence, and shall be liable to level 5 imprisonment (10 years maximum).

Abortions are currently performed according to the Menhennitt ruling, which states that abortion is lawful “…if necessary to protect the physical or mental health of the woman, provided that the danger involved in the abortion did not outweigh the danger which the abortion was designed to prevent.” Anyone performing or having an abortion is still committing a crime, they are merely excluded from prosecution by the ruling.

Labor MP Candy Broad’s proposed private member’s bill to remove abortion from the Crimes Act is unlikely to pass, according to Health Minister Bronwyn Pike because it “basically creates abortion on demand”. Ms Pike is also unnerved by the bill as it removes abortion from the Crimes Act but “doesn’t replace it with anything”. Ms Pike has mentioned that regulations surrounding abortion could be added to the Health Act, but goes on to say that “…I don’t believe this is an improvement and I don’t believe this bill will pass. Not in its current form.”

In other words, Pike and the other mostly male members of the Victorian Labor party think that if we leave it to women to make the decision whether or not to terminate their pregnancy, we’ll have GIRLS GONE WILD, (or as Bronwyn so primly put it, “open slather“). Because number one, women are stupid, and two, abortion “on demand” will be a mere nothing, so the prospect of a medical procedure under anaesthetic involving one’s abdominal organs being mucked around with every four months or so will be an attractive prospect to every young hussy thinking woman.

In other words, as Leslie Cannold explained last week (and the US bloggers before that) the basis for the proposed bureaucratic hurdles (cooling-off periods and so on) is the idea that women just can’t be trusted to make decisions. Paul Austin’s irritatingly patronising article in the AGE opinion page today just didn’t get it.

As things stand, with abortion falling under the Crimes Act in Victoria and the Menhennit ruling providing a provisional out, every doctor who performs terminations is at risk from a “pro-life” activist. If this Bill fails due to the fact that Bronwyn Pike and the Catholic Labor right agree that women are wicked sluts who have to be protected from their own fallen ways, these doctors will be even more under the gun, both because of the media attention and the encouragement it will give to the anti abortion lobby.

By the way, the address for sending letters is here.

But first, you must read Audrey Apple to prepare for the inevitable onslaught of Letters to the Age.

Update 27/7: Fark! Well, the next likely incumbent is John Brumby, who is pretty much on the same page as Bracks, I believe: they both want the Bill scrapped in its present form to “make sure access to abortion is carefully regulated“. Saving us from Girls Gone Wild!

Crossposted at Road to Surfdom