Forums discuss the campaign for the right to choose in Queensland

Issue 
The public forum on abortion decriminalisation in Cairns.

A public forum on abortion decriminalisation held at James Cook University in Cairns attracted more than 80 people on July 13. The night before, a public forum also took place in Brisbane organised by Young Queenslanders for the Right to Choose, attracting about 150 people.

The JCU meeting was organised by Pro Choice Cairns to inform the discussion around the Abortion Law Reform (Women's Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016 which was tabled in parliament on May 10 by Cairns MP Rob Pyne.

Speakers included Professor Caroline de Costa and Dr Mike Carrette who both lecture in Reproductive Health at JCU College of Medicine and have a longstanding interest in the provision of accessible and safe services for women in regional Queensland; members of Parliament, Rob Pyne (QLD) and Mehreen Faruqi (NSW) who have both tabled private members bills to repeal abortion from the criminal code in their respective states; and Mandy Shircore from the JCU Law School. Discussion focused upon how to build the campaign for the repeal legislation to be successful in 2016.

The Brisbane forum took place at the Queensland Parliament House, with a panel including: Professor Heather Douglas, Professor of Law, University of Queensland; Professor Caroline de Costa, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at James Cook University, College of Medicine, Cairns; Benedict Coyne, President of Australian Lawyers for Human Rights; Dr Carol Portmann, Obstetrician and Maternal Foetal Medicine specialist; Dr Danette Langbecker, public health researcher with over 10 years' experience in health care research; and Siân Tooker, counsellor for Children by Choice.

Organiser Kate Marchesi told Green Left Weeklythat the aim of the event was to promote informed debate in contrast to “hysteria and emotion” in some of the public discussion surrounding the abortion law reform bill proposed by independent Pyne.

Pyne's bill, which would remove sections of the Criminal Code relating to abortion, has been referred to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee and is expected back in the parliament next month' for a second reading.

The Queensland Nurses Union has made a submission to the committee backing the bill. Its submission reads: “It is within the context of women's health and the right of an individual to make decisions about any aspect of their own wellbeing — physical and mental — that the QNU recommends the removal of criminal laws around abortion.”

Pyne said: “It is my hope that, during the committee process with submissions from medical professionals and with MPs operating in goodwill, we can reach a point at which all or certainly the majority of members in this place can support this so that young women or any women, especially vulnerable women, are not risking criminal prosecutions.”

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