Qld abortion rights activists press for legalisation

A pro-choice rally in Brisbane on July 17. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

A snap action was called on July 17 to launch the case for the Queensland parliament to vote in favour of abortion decriminalisation. The long-awaited Queensland Law Reform Commission report has been released and legislation that would legalise abortion is expected to be voted on in October.

The proposed legislation will: make abortion a legal choice up to 22 weeks of pregnancy; allow abortion with approval from two doctors after 22 weeks; and establish safe access zones 150m around abortion clinics.

Organiser Alicia Gawthorne from Fair Agenda said at the action that Queensland's "archaic abortion laws have denied people the health care they need for far too long".

"Right now we're urging all MPs to vote in favour of legislation that will recognise everyone's right to access the health care they need," she said.

"Every single woman has the right to feel safe and in control of her life; they are the ones who are best placed to know what is right for them, their health and their family."

If passed, this will be a major advance for abortion rights in Queensland. However, Labor (which holds a majority of seats in the parliament and could guarantee passage of the legislation if it chose) has offered its members a “conscience vote” on the issue. There are hopes that the LNP opposition may do so too, however, this is not yet confirmed. Thus it is still possible the legislation may not pass.

“We’re calling on Labor to ensure that all of their members vote in favour of this legislation and on the parliament as a whole to pass the bill,” Socialist Alliance spokesperson Kamala Emanuel told Green Left Weekly.

“It is unfortunate that the proposed legislation mandates that two doctors must approve an abortion over 22 weeks,” Emanuel said “because this gives doctors a ‘gatekeeper role’ over what should ultimately be a woman’s choice.

“Nevertheless, if passed, this will be a major advance for abortion rights in Queensland and a vindication of the demands campaigners have been making for years. It will bring Queensland into the 21st century after so long in the 19th.

“However, it won’t be the end if the campaign for abortion access because, while the law is a significant barrier to safe abortion care now, cost is also a barrier and access in regional areas needs to be improved.”

[Pro Choice Queensland is calling on supporters of abortion rights to sign the online petition.]

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