Queensland has the historic opportunity to bring its woefully outdated abortion laws into the 21st Century with the Queensland Premier today proposing welcome new laws to remove abortion from the criminal code.
Adrianne Walters, a Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, congratulated the Palaszczuk Government and said now was the time for all political parties to work together to ensure every person has the right to decide what happens to their bodies and lives.
“The values of 1899 should not limit a woman’s right to access the healthcare they need in 2018. The Queensland Parliament is being handed a historic opportunity to finally bring the state’s abortion laws into line with contemporary medical standards, modern community values and common sense.”
“This is a once in a century opportunity that must be seized by the Queensland Parliament,” said Ms Walters.
The Premier’s announcement comes after the Queensland Law Reform Commission reviewed the state’s abortion laws and recommended removing abortion from Queensland’s 1899 Criminal Code.
Polling in Queensland in 2017 showed that over 80 per cent of people support a woman having the right to decide to terminate her pregnancy in consultation with a medical professional. The draft laws would give women this right up to 22 weeks pregnancy. Thereafter, two doctors would need to agree that an abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances.
"The overwhelming majority of the Queensland community have said they want to see the laws change. The medical profession want to see the laws changed. It’s time for the Queensland Parliament to listen and respect the right of every person to decide what is right for their body and life," said Ms Walters.
Queensland is one of four states in Australia that still criminalises abortion in a range of circumstances, despite overwhelming evidence that criminalising abortion is bad for women’s health.
"It’s absolutely shameful that in 2018, a woman and her doctor can still be imprisoned for seeking a safe medical procedure. Criminalising abortion just causes confusion and fear. It forces women to travel interstate or risk unsafe clandestine abortions. The law should support all people to make the best possible medical decision for their health," said Ms Walters.
The proposed new laws would also impose an obligation on doctors who conscientiously object to abortion to refer patients to doctors without such an objection, and create safe access zones to protect women from intimidation and abuse outside abortion clinics.
"No one should have to jump through hoops or run a gauntlet of abuse and harassment just to see a doctor that can help them. Queensland must ensure that all people can access non-judgmental health services privately and safely,” said Ms Walters.
The Human Rights Law Centre submission to the Queensland Law Reform Commission is available here.
For interviews or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519
Photo: Shari Birse