Queensland abortion struggle makes gains


By Susan Price and Phillipa Stanford

BRISBANE — While dozens of pro-choice supporters picketed for the second time outside the state Labor Conference here last week, inside, delegates voted to put the question of abortion back on the government's agenda. This decision comes as the direct result of continuous campaigning by groups around Queensland over the issue.

Earlier in the week, another picket was staged for the opening of the conference, at the plush Crest Hotel, and last week a 200-strong march made its way up the middle of the Queen Street Mall, on to Parliament House and then on to present a petition of signatures to the attorney general.

The threat of prosecution for abortion remains for both women and doctors. Abortion is the only medical practice included in the Criminal Code, and after 18 months of a so-called reformist government, nothing has been done to repeal the law. In an AGB McNair survey, conducted only a year ago, 66% of Queenslanders supported abortion law repeal.

State Labor women's president Jenny Hughey put the motion to the conference; it was seconded by minister for tourism Bob Gibbs.

However, decisions of the conference do not bind the government. Conservative, anti-choice Premier Wayne Goss, was noticeably absent during the debate, and later issued a statement rejecting the conference decision.

Ministers like Anne Warner, a recent villain in the Aboriginal land rights issue, tried to take credit for the decision on abortion. Warner has been blatantly opposed to the broad, public campaign of abortion activists, walking out on the State Labor Women's Conference when a delegation from the picket obtained entrance into the conference room and demanded speaking time. It seems that the breed of sold-out Labor Party bureaucrats are as much an opposition to change as the so-called New Right.