Thursday, 9 February 2006
Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Repeal of Ministerial Responsibility for Approval of Ru486) Bill 2005
I would like to make some concluding remarks on the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Repeal of Ministerial responsibility for approval of RU486) Bill 2005. Most senators supporting this bill have accepted the proposition that there is no difference between surgical abortion and medical abortion. They have then argued that a decision to make medical abortion widely available is a technical or operational issue which does not involve any policy decision making. This is a proposition that some senators may come to regret. As one person said to me this week, if there is no difference between surgical abortion and medical abortion, then why is there any difference in terms of policy between drilling for oil in Bass Strait and drilling for oil in the Great Barrier Reef? After all, if the policy decision is to support drilling for oil, then the location is simply an operational matter. This, of course, does not make sense.
Family First is concerned about the impending Senate decision to remove from elected politicians the responsibility for policy and social issues, which is their paid job, relating to RU486. Having set this precedent, one wonders what else the Senate might delegate—or, to put it another way, what it may not delegate. One positive element of this debate has been the widespread concern expressed about the high number of abortions in Australia, including by many supporters of the bill. There has also been a widely expressed view that governments should act to reduce that number. Research shows that this is what the community wants. Given that research also shows that the community supports women receiving independent counselling before having an abortion and a reasonable cooling-off period between receiving the counselling and deciding whether to have an abortion, Family First hopes all senators will positively support any government initiative which reflects the community’s desires.