Termination of Pregnancy Bill

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (17:03): I, too, rise to make a contribution on this very emotive issue. We know that there are many representatives in this chamber who have been lobbied for a significant period of time. Those people have gone to their representatives, their members of parliament, to express their view and, in most instances, to express an opinion. They have opinions far and wide, but they have an opinion one way or the other.

I would like to thank all the constituents in the electorate of Chaffey who have either met with me one way or another. Whether it is in my Politics in the Pub, whether it is in street corner meetings, whether it is my post office gatherings, whether it is just in conversation, people always feel obliged to come up and express their opinion.

I have had many of them. I do not have the numbers, but there are many. Those opinions have come from all corners of the electorate, remembering that I live in a regional electorate that has different measures from some others of how they view society. What I would say is that they have a view: some are pro-life and some are there for reform.

It is my view that I have given everyone my ear. I have given everyone the consideration they deserve and listened to their point of view, listened to their opinion, whether it be an uninformed opinion, or whether it be because they are part of a group—a church group, a lobby group or a community group—or just part of that community. It is my responsibility to give them a listening ear and make sure they walk away satisfied that I have given them the opportunity to express their point of view.

It has given me the capability to speak to a vast collective of opinions and to those who have been through it. My mother is 82 years of age and I have even had sit-down conversations with some of her friends, nursing colleagues of hers from yesteryear. They have told stories of the women who came in in early days for an abortion for one reason or another. Again, those reasons are many and varied as to whether the abortion was through circumstance.

A lot of women in the early days were forced to the hospital by their husband or their partner because they did not want that first child, or they were of a view that they did not want that child, which was number—I am not going to say the number, as there are different reasons for that number. Of course, as the member for Cheltenham has just said, there has been a significant amount of pressure put on women, whether it be due to mental health, whether it be as an upstanding community person, or whether it just be out of the fear of what has been part of their history with childbirth. Sometimes women have been persuaded to have an abortion; sometimes they have made their own collective decision.

Some of those sad stories from those I sat down with have also come from the very young. I have quite a young family: my youngest daughter is 18 and my eldest son is 30. I have also had the opportunity to sit down with my children's friends as a collective to have that conversation so that they can either express their opinion or they can express an experience they have had, whether it is with a family member or friend or someone within their social circle. Everyone has a story to tell of the impact it has had on them, and I think it has been said far and wide that this bill is long overdue.

My view is that we now make this a health issue, of the like of a healthcare code, away from a law bill, and I think that has merit. What I would say is that listening to all the issues around what was or what is the current law proves to me that there are many and varied reasons for women to have an abortion. Whether it is early in the piece or whether it is later in the piece, they have to be supported by the health system and they have to be supported by their collective family or community should they have to make a decision one way or the other.

I recently sat down with one of my family members and consoled them at length. A pregnant girl had to make a decision on what to do because the baby had a serious medical issue. We talked through it, and she decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. I think she was given the support that I could give her through circumstance. My advice was that it would have to be a health professional who would give her some level of assurance that she would be satisfied when that child was born.

Again, as someone having a listening ear, I have an opinion, but as a collective here in this chamber we have the responsibility as legislators to make the decision on behalf of our constituencies. Morally, we also need to make a decision on what we think is best for modern-day society because it is evolving. I think in today's society we have to reflect on not just what public pressure is telling us but what morally is right for a legislator to make that decision.

I have spoken to many health professionals in order to get their opinion, making sure that I am listening to a collective of opinion. I am listening to a collective of mothers, mothers-to-be, couples and married couples who have made a collective decision along the way. I must say that through this exercise I have sat down with hundreds of people, whether they be couples or individuals. It has certainly given me a much clearer understanding of what it is going to mean to them and the pressures it puts on us as legislators to make a decision in the best interests of not only our communities but today's society.

That is something that has kept me awake at night because I truly care about the common good of today's society. Speaking to many doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals, they all have a story to tell. They have given me a collective of stories and opinions, whether they be professional or whether they be private. You can ask a doctor about the experiences that he or she has had. They will always give you their professional opinion, but normally they will also give you their personal opinion, and those opinions come with a wealth of experience.

The bill is there to accommodate what we think is reform needed here in South Australia. I did hear one of the members saying that if a woman cannot get the care and what she wishes here in South Australia, she will travel interstate. That is something that was not presented to me by individual people. I think it weighs quite heavily on us as legislators to maintain a steady course in making that decision with that in mind. I have seen a number of MPs come to this place this last week with amendments to the bill, and I think that is healthy, robust democracy, and some of it is applaudable but some of it is not. That is something we will work through in the committee process.

I will also take the opportunity now to listen to the remainder of members. I think I have listened to every contribution here in the chamber from MPs. For different reasons, they have had their opinion swayed by their community, swayed by their personal opinion and also some, I am sure, swayed by personal experience. That is also very healthy, that we have a wide and varied understanding of the different situations because one size does not fit all. Again, I will continue to listen to the contributions here on this very important day.

I must say that I have had a number of phone calls today with people expressing their view that this is an important day for South Australia. Yes, it is. It is an important day for the democratic system and it is also an important day for the South Australian parliament to make a decision, one way or the other. It will be presented, and it will be something that will go down in the history books as providing what today's society is looking for. It is looking for leadership, it is looking for a decision and it is also looking for South Australia to fall into line with the national agenda. I will listen carefully and continue to be a part of the debate.

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