I was really happy to see that the RU 486 bill had passed the senate. This was the Bill to end the Health Minister’s veto over the approval of RU 486 as an abortion drug. It passed 45 to 28, so I was suprised to see the commentary that it was expected to be a close vote in the House of Representatives. Then I had a closer look at the votes. The female senators voted 23-3 for the bill. The male senators voted 25 to 22 against.
I doubt that this is the only issue that a conscience vote would give such a huge gender split for. But even without an explicit conscience vote (which happens rarely – the last one was in 2002), having women in parliament changes the complexion of the issues that get airtime (as witness the recent statements by a number of senior Liberal women on the inadequacy of childcare in this country).
Unfortunately, the proportion of women in the House of Representatives is much lower than the Senate. So we’re not out of the woods yet.
For my own future reference (in case I can be bothered voting below the line in the senate next time) here are the NSW senators who voted against:
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells (Liberal), Michael Forshaw (ALP), Bill Heffernan (Liberal), Steve Hutchins (ALP), Sandy Macdonald (Nationals), Ursula Stevens (ALP).