Rally in Brisbane / Glenn Hunt AAP
Queensland has become the latest Australian state to decriminalise abortion. On Wednesday MPs voted 50 to 41 to make the make current legislation more permissive for supporters of abortion and more restrictive for its opponents.
The Termination of Pregnancy Bill removes the procedure from the criminal code and allows abortion on request up to 22 weeks. After 22 weeks an abortion can be performed with approval of two doctors.
The new law forces conscientious objectors to refer women to a doctor who will perform an abortion. It also mandates bubble zones of 150 metres around clinics to protect clients from harassment.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad welcomed the new law. "The right of women to control their own reproduction, their own bodies, is such an important part of equality in our society," she said. "To prioritise the rights of a fetus above that of a woman is something that I find offensive. In this day and age, I think that is something that doesn't belong in our society — it's something that is familiar to me from The Handmaid's Tale, rather than Queensland legislation in the 21st century."
In a two-day debate in Queensland’s unicameral legislature, 69 out of 93 members spoke. One poignant contribution against the bill came from MP
Nick Dametto. He said that his wife fell pregnant while the couple was still in high school and unmarried. "It would have been easier to abort — no one would ever have known," he said. "It would have changed our lives and we would be in a completely different place today." However, he would not be able to live with the "killing of our unborn son or daughter" on his conscience.
Another MP, Ted Sorensen, declared that he was a “survivor” of an unwanted pregnancy. “If this law were present in those days, I would not be alive to speak on behalf of all of the babies who have the right to live – and I believe that I had the right to live,” Mr Sorensen said. “I still believe that. I do not believe that some minister opposite can bring a bill to this house that says, ‘Terminate that pregnancy’. I feel that this bill we are debating today should be called ‘killing Ted bill’”.
New South Wales is now the only Australian jurisdiction where abortion is a criminal offence.
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