Big Issues

What It’s Like To Get An Abortion As A Young Person In Queensland

The legal status of abortion differs from state to state but in Queensland, abortion remains a crime in the Criminal Code Act 1899.

Yesterday, NSW took a huge step forward by establishing safe access zones outside abortion clinics. But abortion still remains illegal in NSW, as well as many other states.

The legal status of abortion differs from state to state but in Queensland, abortion remains a crime in the Criminal Code Act 1899. However, women in the Sunshine State have continued to access abortions under Section 282 in the code which states that abortion is only lawful to “prevent danger to a woman’s mental or physical health. Rape and incest are not considered lawful grounds for an abortion. Even with Section 282, there is always a chance they may be prosecuted.

Although Section 282 has given some women an option to terminate a pregnancy, there are still other factors in place that impede women from accessing abortions, particularly if they are not financially stable. This leaves uni students, and people from low socio-economic backgrounds, in a particularly vulnerable position.

Uni Junkee interviewed several women about their experiences acquiring an abortion in Queensland.  Their names have been changed for privacy reasons.

Scraping The Cash Together

Maria* was shocked when she found out that she was pregnant. At 23 years old, having a child before she finished her studies was out of the question. “The biggest restriction was how much money the procedure cost and how the government doesn’t provide you with any help into that respect,” she said. “It set me back about $600, not including the costs of any doctors visits.”

Hannah*, a part-time retail worker and Business student, echoed this statement. She said, “The medical fees are a pretty big hit, especially when you need time off work to recover. When contraception doesn’t work, but you can’t afford to have a kid, it’s difficult to come up with that kind of money.”

Even though Medicare rebates are available for surgical abortions, paying for an abortion is still an expense that many women can struggle to afford. An unplanned expense can be an extra disadvantage for women who are struggling financially. According to the Marie Stopes website, a medical abortion can cost a minimum of $290, while a surgical abortion can cost a minimum of $440. This is before you factor in additional costs such as doctors appointments and travel expenses.

Getting There

Then there’s the limited accessibility of abortion clinics. Abortions are not offered in public hospitals, so women in rural and remote areas tend to struggle with the additional costs involved in travelling across the state to visit a private clinic.

“You can’t drive under anaesthetic, so I had to have someone drive me into the city, wait around and then pick me up.”

Ruby* had to travel to Brisbane for an abortion despite “living in a town with over 50,000 people, 10 doctors clinics and a hospital.”

“I still had to travel to the city to a private clinic,” she said. “You can’t drive under anaesthetic, so I had to have someone drive me into the city, wait around and then pick me up. I would rather have not involved anyone in this. More access in regional areas is a must.”

Lack Of Safe-Access Zones

Even though the current laws make it difficult for women, the lack of safe access zones around Queensland abortion clinics is exacerbating for the women who do get through the hurdles. Pro-life protesters are able to acquire permits from the council to stand outside clinics and harass women through protests and prayer vigils.

Kat*, a volunteer for Pro Choice Qld, told Uni Junkee, “Last year, a few religious groups decided to protest and harass women entering a clinic in the city during Lent. Women were going in crying, shaking, and extremely distressed. Since Easter this year, there’s been a new group of protesters who have been even more aggressive and abusive towards women accessing a clinic. The group have been granted a permit to protest to ‘make a point’ and intimidate the clinic.”

The choices a woman makes with her body should not be criminalised by our politicians or condemned by protesters. What needs to change in Queensland is the way we help women who are struggling with an unplanned pregnancy.

Abortion needs to be an accessible option for women, regardless of whether they live in Cloncurry or the Gold Coast, have a less than average income or more than average. There also need to be laws that implement designated safe access zones around abortion clinics to protect the safety of women (who frankly don’t deserve to be harassed for their reproductive decisions or accessing a doctor).

We live in a time where abortion shouldn’t exist in a criminal code. Change is overdue, but Queensland is ready.