Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2020

I rise to speak on the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Amendment Bill 2020. The bill aims to amend the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act that was enacted in 2008 to remove the requirement for criminal record checks and child protection order checks to be carried out on women before they undergo the IVF treatment procedures. Now, there has been no-one, and rightfully so, that would argue that this is not something that we should have done a long time ago.

We have heard some pretty moving stories in this chamber already. For women who are challenged with the inability to have children and need some assistance, to have to go through something as demeaning as a check to see if they have got any criminal records and somehow that deems them to be fit or not as a parent is quite abhorrent.

When this bill was introduced I was pleased to see my colleague, who was the Shadow Minister for Health at the time, put on the record that this was not an appropriate part of the bill and should not have been put in place. But here we are today, 12 years later, undoing that, and with great support. It is terrific to see all the women in the chamber today actually supporting this bill.

For me, 33 years ago, nothing was more important than having children—nothing. I can clearly remember thinking, ‘That is the only thing that I want to ensure I can do’. That was my highest priority in life. I was very fortunate to have four children.

As a nurse I spent a lot of time around people who were challenged by health. Seeing some women going through the challenges that they went through I just used to think and reflect quite often on how fortunate I was and how that was one thing that I really could not probably have coped with.

I am really pleased that over the last 30 years we have seen enormous improvements in the treatments and the service that we now offer families. One of our very good specialists who delivered one of my children actually—Dr Ian Pettigrew—went on to move to another area so he could partake in the research and development of the processes that have changed and grown and improved over the last 30 years that I have been involved in the health sector.

So I would like to thank those specialists who have devoted their life—the obstetricians, the gynaecologists, the scientists—to help people overcome infertility and make breakthroughs in conditions like endometriosis that so often result in adhesions and blockages to the reproductive tract, resulting in the inability to get pregnant, among many other reasons, but that is just one.

Our health professionals have done a great job, and so we do not need legislation like this insulting families and women. As a team of parliamentarians I am sure we are all pleased to be here today to support this action of getting rid of this quite derogatory policy that was imposed on women as they go through very invasive procedures to actually have to get pregnant in these circumstances, let alone something as invasive as being questioned about one’s suitability based on any past criminal actions.

Thirty-three years on I have had, as I said in the chamber just two weeks ago, the birth of my granddaughter Fleur, and Fleur was brought into the world through this technique. Whilst I myself did not have the challenge, I could not be more pleased that what we have got today is so advanced and doing so well that we have got my beautiful young Fleur, who is a feisty little thing, I might add. She is not the most placid baby I have ever encountered, but no doubt she will have quite a lot of go in her. I have no idea where she gets that from!

I put this on the record to say thank you for all the work that has been done. It has been quite moving to listen to the stories of the member for Tarneit, the Minister for Women and my colleague the member for Lowan, who is very pregnant herself.

It has been really lovely to see the women talking about the importance of this. We all wish the Minister for Women the very, very best. We will all be making sure that we are all giving her as much encouragement as we can. When she said earlier that it is a brave thing to go it alone, yes, it absolutely is, but let us all remember that it takes a village to raise a child. That is what we must remember to do. Extended families are not around like they were once, but mums are not alone. There are plenty of people around willing to help. We do put a lot of expectation on ourselves to actually raise our children on our own. I said this to my daughter-in-law the other day when I said, ‘You go and do whatever and I’ll have Fleur’, and she said, ‘No, I should be doing this on my own’.

I said, ‘Never, ever should a woman be doing this on her own’. It is about making sure we get around our young mums—not that Hayley is a young, young mum. What are they? I think my eldest children are 32—actually 31 turning 32. It all goes into a bliss after so many years. That is one of my highest priorities, obviously. As a politician it is very, very hard to balance family and the responsibilities of a parliamentarian, but for my grandchildren and doing what I can do for my son and his wife and being there as the grandmother is something I prioritise quite highly. As my next son has just announced his engagement, hopefully those duties will extend further.

Back to the bill, which is really why we are here. It is to support this process and get rid of this onerous policy that no-one is denying is quite wrong so that we can show and demonstrate—I think this also demonstrates—that we care about families, because the children are our future. We are entering a really challenging time at the moment with the coronavirus pandemic. We do not know what that is going to shape up like in the next sort of six weeks to six months; we actually do not know the time frame. But we do know we need our health services in good shape. We do know we need to offer what support we can to the staff.

As the member for Lowan said, she will be delivering her baby in May, which could well be at the peak of the pandemic. We need to make sure our midwives, our hospitals and our staff have everything they need. As politicians I am sure we will be working all together to make sure that everything can be done to support the health system, because that is going to be our greatest challenge over the next several months—that and the economic impact on small businesses. The impact is going to be massive, and we are all acutely aware of that today and are here to make sure we can do whatever we can to lessen that impact, particularly on the health service.

I would like to probably finish by saying that we all acknowledge the hormonal rollercoaster that this journey puts these women on. I would like to acknowledge the good work that all mums do. I wish again the Minister for Women the best of luck on her journey. I wish the member for Lowan the best with her journey and look forward to seeing her with a new infant daughter in her arms. I wish her all the best and remind her and the other women in the chamber that we are all here to assist in any way we possibly can. On that note, I commend the bill to the house.

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