Just to give you a feel for the debate, I’ve collected quotes from those Senators who spoke in favour of the bill. I think it’s interesting to hear what was said and how this bill was defended and passed (and it means you can be a bit more personal in your letters of thanks and appreciation!).
Here’s the first part of my potted summary of the Senate debate on the TGA reform. This post is very long, but not as long as the three Senate Hansards (transcripts of parliamentary debates) that I waded through in order to collect this information. I’ll work on one for the House of Representatives during the next week, if I have the energy… I make no promises though – I’ve spent nearly 8 hours on this so far.
So approval of RU-486 is now in the hands of the Therapeutic Goods Administration, not the Health Minister. Which I think is a marvellous thing.
Perhaps even more wonderful to me is the way that the majority of women front and backbenchers, including women from all five marjor political parties, united regardless of party lines to present and pass this bill. And I hear they intend to continue to work together on other issues relevant to women, although I am yet to track down a source for this pleasing story.
Anyway. Having bombarded my politicians on occasion with many, many emails and letters, I would now like to write and thank the women and men who voted to make RU-486 a medical, not a political, issue.
If necessary, I will read all of Hansard for the last week and make a list – but if anyone already has a list, please let me know.
I know there are lots more, but these were the people I found most easily – I’ll add to this list once I’ve had a good look through Hansard.
You may be aware that RU-486 is not currently legally available in Australia. What you may not be aware of is that this is because the Health Minister, Tony Abbott, currently has the ability to prevent the drug even being assessed by our Therapeutic Goods Administration.
I am, as you know, very pro-choice. But this isn’t actually about choice. To me, this is about whether we want our access to particular medicines controlled by scientists (including pharmacists and medical doctors), or by politicians.
Personally, I can quite see why some people are uncomfortable with the idea of RU-486. There may indeed be safety risks that are particular to Australia, where some of our country areas are really very remote. And there are, no doubt, ethical issues involved in any decision to terminate a pregnancy.
But safety and medical issues are best assessed by medical practitioners and research scientists.
And ethical issues associated with terminations of pregnancy are best decided by the people who will be most affected by them – women or couples, in association with anyone – doctor, clergyman, counsellor or friend – they wish to consult.
Not by a politician.
If you feel similarly, or want to make your feelings known to your Member of Parliament, go here to send an email to him or her.