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Tuesday, 25 March 1980
Page: 958

Senator EVANS (Victoria) -Senator Grimes acknowledged, in a way that Senator Withers in his maiden speech did not, that the list of reasons before the Senate was not necessarily exhaustive and that there may have been matters left out.

Senator Grimes - He said the same.

Senator EVANS - I did not hear him saying the same, but it would have been nice to have heard him say it. I was waiting and listening for him to say it, but he did not do so. It is appropriate to put on record, not by way of moving an amendment because I do not wish to complicate proceedings unnecessarily, that there were several points made during the debate which I believe had some influence on the way certain honourable senators voted- certainly myselfwhich ought to be acknowledged. One such point, which certainly had a great deal of currency in the House of Representatives, involved the relevance of the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of the Child of 1959. It was a matter that occasioned some considerable comment in the other place as to the way in which there was in an international charter apparently some acknowledgment of the rights of the child before as well as after birth.

Senator Missen - That was just an irrelevancy in the debate, though, was it not?

Senator EVANS -That may be so, but to the extent that it was a reason for rejecting the House of Representatives amendment- some honourable senators at least thought that such language in that Convention was irrelevant- I think it ought to be acknowledged and perhaps recorded, at least in Hansard if not in the text of the resolution, that that view was not shared by anyone who addressed himself or herself to this point among the 'no ' voters in this place.

The other point is perhaps more important because it goes to the hean and soul of the abortion issue. It appeared to me to be a theme which occurred through a great number of speeches in this debate but which has received no overt recognition in the list from the Committee for Reasons. A reason for the House of Representatives amendment being rejected was, amongst other things, that it was too absolutist in terms and that it did not sufficiently acknowledge the prevailing social attitudes to abortion which recognise the appropriateness of different considerations applying at different stages during the development of the foetus. I do not want to repeat the arguments because the matter has been the subject of a great deal of debate. I think the point was taken by a number of honourable senators- certainly it was made very strongly by me- that the House of Representatives amendment distinguished only between the pre-birth and after-birth situation, and did not distinguish in any way between the different stages of evolution of the foetus in the period up to its birth from the moment of conception. Many honourable senators took the point that, whilst they were prepared certainly to tolerate the notion of abortion in the first trimester, or in the second trimester in appropriate circumstances, the third trimester, post-viability, might cause difficulty.

To the extent that that point was made quite often by honourable senators and to the extent that it was a very strong ground for rejecting the particular language with which we were confronted by the House of Representatives, I regard it as a little unfortunate that that kind of reason is not articulated in the list before the Senate. I do not seek to move an amendment because I think that, by and large, the reasons before honourable senators probably reflect the major points that were made in the debate. Certainly they serve to communicate effectively the main substance of the objections of the 'no' voters.

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