Many Australians don’t realise it but in several Australian states, including Queensland and New South Wales, abortion falls under the Criminal Code.
This means that it’s technically a criminal offence, and requires permission from a number of different parties.
Now Queensland MP Rob Pyne is working to change that, pushing to have abortion removed from Queensland’s Criminal Code, once and for all.
This comes after a number of cases that have thrust the illegality of abortions into the limelight again. The first involves that of young girls in Queensland seeking abortions, with statistics indicating that two under 14-year-olds are seeking advice on the procedure every single month.
In one very well publicised incidence, a 12-year-old girl form Rockhampton was required to face up to the courts in order to get permission to abort the foetus she was carrying. This was after spending a month speaking to GPs, social workers, two specialist obstetricians and a psychiatrist before a decision was finally made. However it wasn’t until the girl had permission granted by Supreme Court Judge Duncan McKeekin, acknowledging the 12-year-old went through periods of emotional distress, that the procedure was allowed to go ahead.
The second case that brought the issue to the public’s attention was that of Tegan Simone Leach and her partner Sergie Brennan, who in 2010 were put on trial for ordering the abortion pill RU486 over the internet. Police raided their home months after the abortion had taken place, and the pair were put at the mercy of the courts. Eventually they were acquitted, but incredibly they could have been sentenced to seven years behind bars for terminating their pregnancy at home.
For Rob Pyne, these cases go to show that current laws simply will not do. In the case of the young couple he had this to say:
“To have a young couple like that put in a witness box and questioned about their most personal details — I think that’s wrong and it’s not a good use of the law,” the Cairns-based MP told AAP.
Laws In Australia
Queensland and New South Wales have the country’s harshest abortion laws, with women in NSW able to be jailed as long as 10 years for terminating her own pregnancy. In both states a woman can only get an abortion if the pregnancy is deemed by a doctor to be a detriment to her mental or physical health.
As women in the state find themselves in a position where they want to have an abortion, only to realise it is illegal, they are left with little to do but travel. In Victoria the cases of “abortion tourism” are on the rise after the state decriminalised abortion in 2008, making it perfectly legal up to 24 weeks.
Now vocal supporters in the pro-choice movement, like Reproductive Choice Australia’s co-president Jenny Ejlak, are calling for blanket abortion laws across the country to provide equal access to the procedure for all women.
“In terms of the laws it’s quite ridiculous to have differing ones across every jurisdiction,” Ejlak said, noting that when women have to travel abortions often happen later then they should.
“Nobody likes to see abortions happen later in pregnancy and it’s best to happen as early as possible.”
Time For A Change
Rob Pyne, who resigned from Labor in March, introduced his first private member’s bill into parliament on Tuesday, calling for abortion to be removed from the criminal code in Queensland. Mr Pyne called the curly laws “archaic” and “outdated” noting that they “have no place in a modern liberal democracy”. He touched on the fact that it is not up to outside forces to determine when people should have children:
“Surely a young person should not have to ruin their young lives by proceeding with a pregnancy if they’re not ready and their family and their doctor think it unadvisable,” he said.
At present the bill has made no comment on the issue of late-term abortions, and Mr Pyne said it was not his intention to put those into place as yet. His main intention was to make sure that abortion was no longer a crime in the state of Queensland.