Angela Walker

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

Humming of the Axis
Jeremiah Johnson
www.jeremiahjohnson.com.au

Singer-songwriter Jeremiah Johnson, who grew up in regional New South Wales, is well known and loved in his adopted hometown of Cairns and will soon be hitting the road for an extended tour around Australia. After a successful crowd funding campaign this year, the independent musician has a fully equipped tour bus and it’s time for his fan base to grow even further.

A public forum on abortion decriminalisation held at James Cook University in Cairns attracted more than 80 people on July 13. The night before, a public forum also took place in Brisbane organised by Young Queenslanders for the Right to Choose, attracting about 150 people. The JCU meeting was organised by Pro Choice Cairns to inform the discussion around the Abortion Law Reform (Women's Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016 which was tabled in parliament on May 10 by Cairns MP Rob Pyne.
In the same way that women had to organise and struggle to win the vote, equal pay and access to higher education, women have also had to fight for their reproductive rights, including access to contraception and access to safe medical and surgical abortion. The impact of pregnancy and childbirth on a woman is so great that no matter what other political, social or economic rights women have, if they do not have control over whether or when to have children, it is meaningless to speak about women controlling their own lives.
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.
On May 10, the MP for Cairns Rob Pyne did what many politicians in Queensland have claimed for the past 30 years could not be done: he presented a private member's bill to decriminalise abortion. While some members of parliament over the years have claimed to have had a private members bill in their top drawer ready to go, when it came to the crunch these bills never saw the light of day. But it was not due to a lack of evidence from medical, legal and public health experts, who supported removal of abortion from the Crimes Act.
The outcome of a trial against a Cairns couple for procuring an abortion has turned the tables on the Department of Public Prosecutions and the Queensland government. The Cairns jury swiftly returned a “not guilty” verdict on October 14 and the question now being asked is “what real crimes are exposed by this case?” For many, the real crime is the fact that the anti-abortion laws from 1899 have not been repealed.
Green Left Weekly’s Angela Walker spoke to Carole Ford, a founding member of Pro Choice Cairns, about the upcoming trial of a young Cairns couple. The couple have been charged under Queensland’s 19th century abortion-procurement laws. How has the Cairns community responded to this case? With overwhelming disbelief. I'm sure when most Queenslanders first heard of the charges, they felt as if they had regressed in time.
The approaching October 12 trial of a young Cairns couple on abortion-related criminal charges shows the need for repeal of the anti-abortion laws. In response, the campaign to decriminalise abortion is gaining strength. A July 9 book launch with author Caroline de Costa attracted 90 people. Jo Wainer, a long-time campaigner for abortion rights, was a special guest speaker at the event.
October 12 is the trial date set for a young Cairns couple charged with procuring an abortion. According to Dr Caroline de Costa in a book released this month, Never Ever Again …Why Australian Abortion Law Needs Reform, no woman has previously been charged with procuring her own abortion since the 1899 criminal code was first decreed in Queensland. De Costa believes this could be the first trial of its kind in Australia’s history.
The Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) will present the 4th Annual Tropical Alternatives Film Festival in Cairns over May 6-9.
CAIRNS — Three Queensland doctors published a letter in the international medical journal The Lancet on March 6, highlighting the difficulties women in the state face accessing medical and surgical abortions.
In early September, most abortions performed in Queensland health facilities came to a halt. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists had passed on a legal opinion to their members that said doctors were still at risk of prosecution while abortion remained in the criminal code.
Last week, Queensland’s Bligh Labor government demonstrated it could remove the conscience vote on laws regarding abortion. It also instructed ALP parliamentarians to vote in favour of a law to allow medical terminations on the same limited grounds as now apply to surgical terminations.
Doctors at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital will no longer perform medical terminations due to legal uncertainty, after criminal charges were laid against a 19-year-old woman and her partner in Cairns for allegedly procuring an abortion, said the August 21 Australian.
Access to safe medical and surgical abortion is a right that women have fought for and are still to fully achieve. They’ve kept fighting because the right to decide if and when to bear children is a cornerstone for women’s equality in society.

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