Questions and Answers:
No. The truth is that women seeking abortion can easily access the 10 outpatient clinics throughout the state which offer pregnancy termination procedures.
These procedures are subsidised by Medicare. According to Medicare statistics, there are around 14,000 abortions in Queensland every year. Abortion is very accessible in Queensland for any woman who wants one – particularly early in pregnancy.
Despite claims of some lobby groups, 99.9% of women who have abortions under medical supervision are not at risk of prosecution under the current law.
The recent charges in the Cairns case only arose because it was a ‘do-it-yourself’ abortion where no doctor was involved. It is the only known case in Australia where a woman has been prosecuted for having had an abortion and, given the not guilty verdict, it is almost certain that no charge of illegal abortion against a woman would ever be laid in the future.
The law against abortion in some circumstances needs to stay in place to protect women from incompetent doctors such as Dr Suman Sood, who was found guilty of an illegal abortion in the NSW Supreme Court in 2006 and banned by the Medical Tribunal of NSW for at least 10 years. Prosecutions of abortion doctors are rare, but typically arise from complaints to the authorities by the aborted women themselves, who then are offered immunity in return for their evidence.
Unless society is comfortable with abortion being legal for any reason until birth, then the law on abortion should remain in the Criminal Code.
There is no consensus among Queensland voters to change the law. The public is evenly divided on the issue with 50% opposed to decriminalisation and 48% in favor — according to the first comprehensive market research on the issue ever carried out in Queensland.
This randomised telephone poll of Queensland voters was conducted by independent market research firm Galaxy Research for the Australian Family Association on 15-17 October — the weekend after the Cairns trial — so it reflects the current view of Queenslanders on this issue. With 13 specific, objectively worded questions, this research drills down to reveal the considered opinion of Queenslanders on abortion, instead of skimming the surface like previous one-question polls have done.
Despite the Queensland public being divided on whether the law should be repealed, the same survey shows that 88% of Queenslanders are opposed to late-term abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, 74% are opposed to abortion past the first trimester and 49% of Queenslanders are opposed to abortion for non-medical reasons, that is financial or social reasons.
So even in the first trimester, support for abortion is highly conditional. These figures indicate a significant level of uneasiness with what decriminalisation would mean, even among those who say they support it. At election time, the research indicates an average potential swing of up to 12% could be generated against members of Parliament who voted in favor of decriminalising abortion (26% swing against versus 14% swing towards).
This is borne out by the results of modest pro-life letterboxing campaigns in two state seats (Aspley and Algester) in the 2009 election and three federal seats (Bonner, Hinkler and Dickson) in the 2010 federal election – which produced an additional average swing of 2.5% against the pro-abortion MP or candidates over and above the statewide swing.
Not everyone who opposes proposed changes to legislation on abortion is religious, as it is also an intrinsic human desire to protect the rights of children and women.
This is much more a women’s rights and human rights issue, than it is a religious issue.
However, it must be recognised that the churches and their members have just as much right to participate in the debate on public policy and in the democratic process as any other group in the community.
No, because our current Queensland law protects the rights of women and doctors to some extent.
The existing law on abortion stands as something of a safeguard against women being pressured by their partners or parents. They can and do appeal to the fact that abortion (except for medical reasons) is against the law. This allows women to stand up and say “you cannot tell me to do something against the law.”
The existing law also ensures that there is some counselling and assessment by a doctor.
The Cairns case was a "do-it-yourself" abortion where the woman’s partner had illegally imported abortifacient drugs from overseas. She had taken these powerful and dangerous pills without even a reliable pregnancy test.
It should be noted that RU486, the so-called abortion pill, has caused the deaths of at least 29 women worldwide, according to the European manufacturer Exelglyn. The TGA has only approved RU486 for use in pregnancy by a small number of doctors, presumably due to safety concerns. No responsible doctor would recommend that a woman should take RU486 without any medical supervision.
If abortion were decriminalised in Queensland, we would begin to see a higher rate of risky “do-it-yourself” abortions without necessary medical consultation and supervision. There have been moves to establish a website for DIY abortion in Queensland which was forced to withdraw by the Australian Medical Association.
The existing Queensland law is also an essential defence for doctors and nurses who refuse to co-operate in abortion. Under the new Victorian law, which abortion activists want for Queensland and which leading human rights lawyer Frank Brennan called “totalitarian”, doctors are forced, against their conscience, to co-operate with the process of obtaining an abortion. 86 percent of Queenslanders support conscientious objection for doctors and nurses in regard to abortion.
The current abortion law protects women more against unscrupulous practices than the proposed legislation would.
If abortion were decriminalised completely as has occurred in Victoria and the ACT, late-term abortions would become more accessible and more women would suffer long-term physical or psychological damage. [WFA 2006 Women & Abortion: An Evidence-Based Review by Selena Ewing]
Since the law was changed in Victoria, late-term abortions being performed in the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne have risen by 500% - from one a fortnight to three a week. This has put great stress on hospital staff.
Furthermore, if abortion were decriminalised in Queensland, we would see this practice infiltrate our public hospital system, which currently only does abortions for genuine medical reasons – not financial or social reasons. This would put pressure on more medical staff to become involved against their conscience.
Proposed legislation also would lead to an expansion of the for-profit abortion industry, which would allow more women to be exploited and manipulated at their most vulnerable time. According to a national survey by Sexton Marketing Group in 2005, 87% of Australians think the abortion rate is too high and want it reduced. When something is legalized you will get more of it, not less. Examples of this include gambling and prostitution.
As in Victoria, such laws would allow abortion for any reason until birth. In Victoria, the concurrence of a second doctor is required for terminations after 24 weeks of pregnancy. However, this provision is a sham, as the second doctor does not even have to see or talk with the woman and does not need to examine her file.
Women deserve better than abortion. Decriminalisation is not the answer. What is needed instead is stronger safeguards for women such as anti-coercion laws, a requirement for provision of free professional counseling independent of the abortion clinic, coupled with a cooling-off period, as well as much better support services for women so they can choose the life-giving alternatives of keeping the child, adoption or fostering – and not feel that abortion is their only choice.