Queensland on cusp of decriminalising abortion

200 people marched on state parliament in Brisbane on September 18. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

A parliamentary vote to remove abortion from Queensland’s Criminal Code and treat it as a health issue could happen on October 16.

A parliamentary committee considering the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 finished its hearings on September 17and is scheduled to hand down its report on October 5.

Students in Brisbane and Cairns held rallies on September 18 supporting the move to decriminalise abortion.

Chloe Thomason, one of the organisers of the Cairns event held at the James Cook University (JCU) campus, told Green Left Weekly that it was well supported.

“We’ve had a lot of engagement from the students at JCU. Many people are shocked and outraged that abortion is still in the Criminal Code. This is a health issue and it should be in the Health Act.

“All women should have the right to a safe procedure. Her body, her choice. Make it safe, make it legal.”

At the rally, Raechel Oleszek from Pro Choice Cairns outlined the strong grassroots campaign for decriminalisation since a young couple were charged under the laws in 2009.

In Brisbane on the same day, 200 people marched on parliament carrying pro-choice signs and umbrellas. They tied abortion rights messages on purple ribbon to the fence around parliament house and urged all MPs to vote for the legislation.

While the bill could pass with the support of the Labor government, which has a parliamentary majority, there is mounting pressure on the Queensland Liberal National Party to allow its MPs a conscience vote.

Cairns Pro Choice member Kay Haig told Green Left Weekly that she was astounded to hear that LNP president Gary Spence had reportedly said changes to Queensland’s abortion laws are against party policy.

“Surely any modern political party would want to have this important women’s issue be a health issue rather than a criminal offence?” she said.

“Women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy need access to good medical care, not the fear of prosecution.”

“The bill was prepared by the Queensland Law Reform Commission and will allow for safe zones around clinics. It will also mandate doctors who do not agree with reproductive choices for women to refer to appropriate service so that they can get the care they require.

“After the recent antics in the federal parliament, it seems the Liberal Party really does not care about women.”

[A Brisbane pro-choice rally is planned for International Safe Abortion Day on September 28 outside parliament house. A Cairns pro-choice rally and march is scheduled for October 13 from the Esplanade to the Courthouse. There will also be a Brisbane rally 11am, Sunday 14 October in Queens Gardens.]