Culture

The Push To Decriminalise Abortion In Queensland Has Been Scrapped

Abortion has been in the Queensland criminal code since 1899.

A bill to remove abortion from the Queensland criminal code has been withdrawn after the Liberal National Party announced it would vote down any attempt to decriminalise the medical procedure.

The bill had been put forward by independent MP Rob Pyne who had been calling on both the Labor government and the LNP to support his proposal. Abortion is currently the only medical procedure in the Queensland criminal code.

Anyone found guilty of “unlawfully” having an abortion in Queensland could face up to seven years in prison. The only legal justification for abortion in Queensland is if a pregnancy risks your physical or mental health.

Abortion has been decriminalised in every other state and territory except for NSW, though access varies depending on the jurisdiction. For example, in the NT abortions can currently only be performed in a public hospital and medical abortion is still a crime. However, the NT government has introduced a law to allow the use the drug RU486 at home, and to introduce safe access zones around abortion clinics to stop patients being harassed.

Last year Marie Stopes International, Australia’s largest abortion provider, announced it was scaling back the services offered in two of its clinics in regional Queensland. The changes were estimated to impact about 800 people a year, who will now have to travel further to access abortion clinics.

The LNP Opposition in Queensland announced this week that they would collectively vote to block Pyne’s decriminalisation bill. Because the Labor Party grants its MPs a conscience vote on the issue, and some Labor MPs were expected to vote against decriminalisation, the LNP’s decision meant that it was unlikely the bill would succeed.

rob pyne

Cairns MP Rob Pyne has introduced legislation to decriminalise abortion. Credit: Rob Pyne

Instead, the bill has been referred to the Queensland Law Reform Commission which will provide recommendations to the Labor government, assuming it’s re-elected. The next Queensland election needs to be held before 2018, and there is speculation it could be held this year.

Labor has promised that if it is re-elected it will “modernise” Queensland’s abortion laws based on recommendations from the Law Reform Commission.

But until then, the issue has been taken off the political agenda leaving Queensland with an abortion law written in 1899.

Feature imagine via Rob Pyne/Facebook