Qld: call for abortion law reform

Pro-choice group Children by Choice has written to Queensland Premier Anna Bligh and two senior state ministers calling for a legislative review of the state's abortion laws, a move supported by the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties (QCCL), said the July 7 Courier-Mail.

However, Children by Choice spokesperson Cait Calcutt said all three leaders had replied that the government would not act, saying any change would be up to a private member's bill.

“We are seeing the use of these laws — which are outdated — to prosecute a young woman [for attempting to procure an abortion] in Cairns”, Calcutt said. “The fact that this prosecution is going ahead indicates a review of abortion law in Queensland is necessary.

“There doesn't seem any reason … why those same laws won't be applied to any other woman seeking an abortion."

She said a review by the Queensland Law Reform Commission would be impartial and would allow for public submissions.

QCCL president Michael Cope said the July 5 release of a survey of public attitudes towards abortion — published in the Medical Journal of Australia — showed almost 90% of Australians supported access to terminations in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. He said the findings indicated the Queensland Labor government should change the law, a move that would be in line with ALP policy.

Cope said the argument that women could access abortions under the current laws was a fallacy; the prosecuted young woman due back in the Cairns District Court this month proves this.

"If the government is not prepared to lead the debate, the council calls for it to have a Law Reform Commission review, as was done successfully in Victoria”, he said.

Any recommendation for decriminalisation of abortion would have to go before state parliament for a vote, and probably face a “conscience vote”. Calcutt said it was time to test the view that decriminalisation of abortion would not receive majority support in parliament.