Aboriginal MP opposes abortion drug in NT

Aboriginal medical practitioners cannot be trusted to dispense the abortion drug RU486, an indigenous MP has told the Northern Territory parliament.


An impassioned night of debate by MPs has ended without a resolution on whether abortion drug RU486 will be legalised in the NT.

For the second month in a row, the private member’s bill introduced by Independent Speaker Kezia Purick was adjourned for debate to continue in May.

But it was not before the parliament heard a comprehensive airing of views for what will ultimately be a conscience vote.

The NT is the only Australian jurisdiction not to allow the drug, so women in remote areas have to travel hundreds of kilometres at great expense to obtain a surgical abortion.

Independent member for Arnhem Larisa Lee was one of three Christian MPs to speak against the bill.

“The majority of them (Aboriginal health workers) can’t even put a drip in… and you’re going to give them the right to do that (dispense the drug)…

“That is some scary stuff,” said Ms Lee, a former Aboriginal health worker.

Women in her electorate, which she said is 80 per cent Aboriginal, were concerned about a lack of support for those undergoing medical terminations, and how they might get emergency support.

“I’ve got nothing against women’s rights… but if you’re going to put this on the people I represent you have to make sure you have it in place properly, otherwise I’m not for it,” Ms Lee said.

Labor MP Gerry McCarthy said there was an elitism in the bill that advantaged women in urban centres who could more easily access medical assistance.

“This will put a lot of Territory women at risk, it will create an us and a them… I cannot support that,” he said adding that the legislation could provide “a pathway to a coroner”.

Independent Gerry Wood said he believed life began at conception and could no support any measure that made abortions more accessible.

“We need to be supporters of our unborn Territorians… The issue over whether RU486 is safe is an argument wholly based on what is safe for the woman, no one asks the unborn if they think it’s safe,” he said.

Suzanne Belton, spokeswoman for lobby group WHAT RU4 NT, told AAP many of the comments were “laughable in that it was factually incorrect, it was scaremongering, and clearly some politicians had not done their homework”.

“Are (Territorians) happy to have elected members of parliament put forward their own personal religious beliefs above what their electorate might want?”

She said health workers in remote areas were “wise and sensible people” and government should legislate to allow the drug to be used, and then allow the medical profession to regulate it.