Today we gather – as we do each year – to do something important.
We take time to honour the lives of all human beings – from all walks of life, of all ages, in whatever circumstances they are.
That’s a deeply compassionate thing to do.
It says to the woman who finds herself unexpectedly or inconveniently pregnant:we love you and we will support you to honour that life and yours.
It says to the couple who learns that the child they are expecting has a disability: your child is perfect and we will provide you with the help you need to help their gifts shine.
It says to the couple who has been told they cannot conceive that we understand your yearning for a family, and we will support policies that make adoption far more accessible than it is right now.
It says to older Australians, you are valued and we will strive to protect you from the elder abuse that is known to correlate with readily available euthanasia.
So I want to thank each and every one of you being here. For showing the courage to display your beliefs – not to push them on others as we are so often accused of doing – but rather to extend the hand of support and kindness and generosity to people who face great fear about their ability to cope with the circumstances they find themselves in.
For the measure of a society is how it treats those who cannot speak for themselves. That includes the elderly, the sick, the disabled, and it includes the unborn – the most voiceless of all.
It is madness that we invest for years into our best and brightest to become doctors, teaching them to heal, and then we ask them end life.
And it is just plain wrong that our society seems more ready to condemn cruelty against a dog or cat than it is against a human child – even one old enough to be capable of life outside of the womb, one who, if unwanted, would have many families into which he or she would be warmly welcomed and supported and loved.
On moments like today, we challenge our society to ask: who do you want to be?
To me, the answer is easy.
I want every child to know that they matter. Planned or unplanned, convenient or not, with or without a disability. You all matter, you all have incredible gifts to offer our world, and it should be our honour to walk beside you, supporting and encouraging you as you discover and reveal what your talents and contribution will be.
You are more than a clump of cells. At just twelve weeks, with your beating heart and all of your key organs, with ten little fingers and ten little toes, you are a human, and you deserve to reach your potential.
And, without a shred of judgment, with nothing but kindness and open hearts, we should wrap our arms around every woman facing difficulty and help her either to grow the confidence needed to adapt to the unexpected, knowing she will be helped, or help to facilitate adoption to a ready family.
It baffles me that some people have questioned whether I am an appropriate person to serve as assistant minister for women because I am pro-life. They suggest there is some conflict between the roles.
But there is no conflict in wanting to support women and the most vulnerable in our community.
I know there are many women who find themselves in incredibly difficult situations. We should be providing care and support to these women, so that they know terminating their pregnancy isn’t their only option.
I want all women to have a real choice.
Not to be shoehorned into abortion of a healthy child because she feels ashamed or embarrassed to be pregnant. Not to face coercion by a partner into abortion as part of what we know is a form of domestic violence. And not to feel like their life is over just because it hasn’t gone to plan.
And I strongly believe that the little girls and boys whose lives lie in the balance deserve to be heard, deserve to be respected.
So, how can we build a culture of life in this beautiful country?
A friend of mine told me an interesting fact. Most teenage boys have not, throughout their teens, held a baby. Isn’t that an interesting thing? But when they are supported to do so, even when it is a real-weighted doll – they cradle that child to their chest in the most protective way.
But by giving young people more chances to interact with, and be responsible for, babies, they can come to understand as they grow up the opportunity that is pregnancy – one to be valued.
And when we educate young people to interact with, serve and support older people with dementia, we show them that even with this difficult illness there is a hearing, feeling human within capable of love and joy and fun. Perhaps that experience will make those involved think twice about their families as they age.
It is with stories like these I am filled with optimism for what is ahead. Hope that it will be the coming generation that seizes the privilege of life with both hands. Belief that with every passing year, the number of babies terminated in Queensland will fall. That our vulnerable will be valued and heard and supported to achieve their potential. That our women will be safe and granted real choice, even in adversity.
We can do this. Thank you so very much for being a part of the movement for change.