House debates

Wednesday, 24 February 2021


South Australia: Abortion

7:35 pm

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise tonight to speak on a matter of great sadness to me. Within my home state of South Australia, the state parliament has debated and in fact passed into law the Termination of Pregnancy Bill. Disingenuously, this bill was packaged up by its proponents as the transposition of abortion from a criminal issue to a health issue. Not only does this categorisation mislead the people of South Australia regarding the operation of the bill but it seeks, in my view deliberately, to hoodwink the people of South Australia from the sickening reality of the changes sought and ultimately enacted.

In plain, this bill legalises abortion to term—a barbaric outcome made possible in South Australia courtesy of the proponents of this bill. Prior to this debate, with the exception of a circumstance where a mother's life was at risk, no fetus could be aborted past 28 weeks. This bill and the changes that it enacts means that abortions in South Australia can now take place due to mental and psychosocial reasons, even if a fetus is viable. Indeed, these changes mean that those terminations could occur right up to the date of birth itself.

Viability is now medically considered to be 22 weeks and six days, meaning in effect that fetuses can live independently outside their mother, albeit with difficulty and not without medical assistance, following a C-section from that time onwards. It saddens me that as a direct result of this legislative change a viable life can be aborted, notwithstanding that that life could survive independently of its mother.

This bill has been crowed by its proponents as bringing South Australia into line with other states. Victoria is often cited, but what is almost never noted is that in Victoria since the enactment of similar legislation 65 otherwise healthy babies have been aborted after 23 weeks, not for the physical safety of the mother or baby but for psychosocial reasons. That's 65 lives extinguished in a manner sanctioned ultimately by the state. Gut-wrenching me for me was that many of my own state Liberal colleagues voted in favour of this bill, ignoring the need to stand up for the rights of the unborn.

It is often said that a society ought to be judged by the manner in which it treats the vulnerable. I am hard pressed to think of a life more vulnerable than that of an unborn child. I pray that the members of parliament who voted in favour of this bill don't live as the original architect of abortion law in South Australia did—the former SA Attorney-General, Robin Millhouse—to regret their decisions to support this brutal bill. Robin Millhouse said in the later years of his life: 'It became abortion on demand. I didn't intend it to be that.' And bear in mind that Millhouse here is talking about abortion up to 28 weeks. What the South Australian parliament has done, in effect, is to legislate abortion on demand to term.

Throughout this debate, I've been reminded of those special times in the late phases of pregnancy when I would place my hand on my wife's stomach. In light of the South Australian parliament's determination last week, I've been forced to stop thinking about these times. It's just too painful. Not many debates in public life, and indeed in my public life, have made me feel physically ill, but this outcome has not only shocked me but revolted me.