Repeal of Queensland abortion laws one step closer

Issue 

The Queensland government moved a motion on May 26 that the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee is to report back to state parliament on the Abortion Law Reform (Woman's Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016 by August 26.

The private member's bill to repeal abortion from the state's Crimes Act was initiated by Independent member for Cairns Rob Pyne and is supported by an overwhelming number of activists, women's groups, health services and medical practitioners throughout the state.

Together with its consideration of the Bill, the committee is to consider, report and make recommendations on aspects of the laws governing termination of pregnancy in Queensland to state parliament on options regarding:

• Existing practices in Queensland concerning termination of pregnancy by medical practitioners;

• Existing legal principles that govern termination practices in Queensland;

• The need to modernise and clarify the law (without altering current clinical practice), to reflect current community attitudes and expectations;

• Legislative and regulatory arrangements in other Australian jurisdictions including regulating terminations based on gestational periods; and

• Provision of counselling and support services for women.

The closing date for written submission is 4pm on June 30.

The attempt to repeal the law has drawn the ire of some conservative individuals and groups, including letterboxing of outrageously false material about women's reproductive choices in electorates targeting pro-choice members of parliament.

Dr Carole Ford from Cairns Pro Choice told Green Left Weekly that the “flyers were sent without any identification which is a form of anonymous bullying not open public debate.

“If the writers were committed to their viewpoint, they would identify the source of the flyers.

The flyer uses scaremongering and misinformation suggesting that women will opt for late term abortions without legitimate cause. They show disrespect for women generally and more specifically for their ability to make ethical decisions” she said.

“Queensland women should not be denied health services that are available to other Australian women.”

Dr Caroline de Costa is a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist who has spent 43 years caring for women's reproductive health, more than twenty of these in rural Queensland.

De Costa notes that opponents of the bill have made spurious claims in regard to medical practice.

“In Australia 94% of all abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy; 5% between 13 and 20 weeks and just 1% after 20 weeks. In the latter two cases the indications are almost always severe foetal abnormality or severe health problems in the woman,“ she said.

“The idea that if the law were changed Queensland women would suddenly start demanding very late abortions, or Queensland doctors providing them, is completely without foundation in our daily medical practice.

“I support Mr Pyne's Bill and ask that Queensland MPs move to ensure that laws reflect the 21st century, in which Queensland women now live.”

Public meetings to support law repeal are being planned for Brisbane and Cairns in July. To join the campaign to support the passage of the Bill click on the Take Action page of the Pro Choice Queensland website.

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