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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 17

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (10:49 AM) —I rise to comment on the tabling of this report. This has been another difficult question for the Senate. Whilst the object of the inquiry was primarily about the management of second trimester labour, it nevertheless focused on the wider issue of abortion. It is always an issue which raises challenges and views across the spectrum of our community.

Some of the evidence given was not only graphic but also very confronting, and it is evidence which I am sure is not known by many in our community. Some of the evidence that was given referred to how babies were being born alive and left to die, the brutality of methods that are used in second trimester abortions, resulting in foetal pain, and what appears to be a eugenics agenda against the disabled, promoted in identically worded submissions, which have just been referred to, by the Australian Reproductive Health Alliance and the Parliamentary Group on Population and Development. These submissions appear to argue that Medicare funding should be retained for second trimester abortion because allowing disabled babies to be born would be a burden on the Australian taxpayer. The submission from the parliamentary group, from which I understand several members and senators have distanced themselves, is particularly troubling.

During the inquiry it became very clear that there is not only uncertainty about some of the descriptors under item 16525 but also a lack of clear data. The Medicare data contained in the report indicates the total number of services provided under the items; however, the data is only available for all services provided under the item and is not available for each indicator or the circumstances of the labour. In short, there is a lack of data on terminations performed in Australia. Better collection of data will have ramifications for healthcare policy and practice across the spectrum. Not only will better and more informed data ensure that government, the medical profession and the general public can be better informed, but it will also afford greater opportunities for better education in the area of perinatal and neonatal issues.

In conclusion, this is an emotive issue often presenting diametrically opposed views. It is important, as the chair said, that there be better information, because I think this will in turn ensure a greater respect for those different views which may be held for scientific, medical or ethical reasons. However, the dismissive attitude toward the views of others by some during the hearing was very regrettable.