Last Thursday, a bill to ban Medicare funding for sex-selection abortions was debated in the Senate on Thursday, dividing senators on both sides of politics.

The bill, introduced by Senator John Madigan would prevent Medicare funding for abortions if they were for the purposes of sex-selection.

Eleven Senators spoke in the debate, with seven opposing it and four supporting it.

The bill was opposed both by Coalition and ALP Senators, as well as Independent Nick Xenophon and Richard di Natale of the Greens. Their key arguments were that there is no evidence of sex-selection abortion in Australia, and that this bill restricts a woman’s right to choose abortion.

Coalition and ALP Senators also supported the bill, however, arguing that terminating a pregnancy based on the sex of the child is abhorrent and should not be tolerated in Australia, let alone funded by the tax payer.

ACL made a submission to a Committee inquiry into this bill in April last year.

You can read full transcript of the debate here.

But here’s our take on the best and worst of the debate.

Claire Moore, ALP

So when we are looking at changing the blunt instrument of legislation, we are actually intruding, I believe, upon a very sensitive, personal medical decision. I have always said this is a very important decision to be taken by a woman, her medical practitioner and any other person she chooses to engage in that discussion.

Richard Di Natale, Greens

This is a bill that goes to the heart of the woman's right to choose. That is what this bill is about.

Anne Ruston, Liberal Party

I could find no evidence to suggest that the termination of pregnancies in Australia for sex selection purposes is actually occurring.

Sue Lines, Australian Labor Party

I certainly do not support gender-selection abortion but do oppose this bill because I think it represents the thin edge of the wedge… I am a passionate advocate of women’s rights. I have always been for as long as I can remember. I believe it is a woman’s right to choose and have been a passionate advocate of that position for a very, very long time.

Nick Xenophon, Independent

“I agree… that gender selection is discriminatory and greatly prejudicial to women and female children in society, but I cannot agree with the measures proposed in this bill.”

Jan McLucas, Australian Labor Party

Any decision to terminate a pregnancy is ultimately a decision for a woman, on the advice of her clinician and on the advice from whomever she wishes to seek advice from. It is a fundamental right of a woman to be able to terminate a pregnancy. It is her decision… This is not a decision for government; it is not a decision for the parliament. This is a decision for a woman alone.

Carol Brown, Australian Labor Party

This bill, I believe, is an attempt to erode the right of women to make choices about their own bodies and to reignite a debate about abortion… I believe that women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies and I believe that access to safe and legal abortion is a fundamental aspect of this right.

Cory Bernardi, Liberal

The choice to terminate a child on the basis of gender is perhaps the most selfish decision that anyone could take. It is saying, 'I do not think a girl is worth the same as a boy.' When has this country thought that was going to be okay?

Joe Bullock, Australian Labor Party

I said in my maiden speech that on issues like this, that were matters of life and death, I would always vote to support life. I support life. I support Senator Madigan's bill as a small step in the right direction, and I will consistently support the preservation of human life against all challengers.

Ian MacDonald, Liberal National Party

To suggest that a pregnancy should be terminated simply because of the sex of the child – because the parents wanted a child of the other sex – is just repugnant and repulsive. As Senator Ruston said, it is almost a shame that we should have to debate this bill.

Chris Back, Liberal Party

I do not think there would be anybody in this parliament – and overwhelmingly in the Australian population – who would accept, concur with or agree with the notion of termination of pregnancy based solely on the selection of gender of the offspring.

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