Almost two-thirds of Queenslanders support the decriminalisation of abortion according to opinion poll
The poll of 800 voters, conducted exclusively for The Courier-Mail, found 64 per cent believed abortion should be legalised, while 31 per cent disagreed. Five per cent were uncommitted.
Despite the results, Premier Anna Bligh has consistently refused to decriminalise abortion, saying she does not have enough parliamentary support.
The poll, conducted last week, comes as public hospital abortions in Queensland remain suspended, except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk. Queensland Health obstetricians have been sending women requesting abortions at less than 18 weeks’ gestation to private clinics within the state.
Women seeking late terminations are being referred to centres in Darwin and Melbourne.
At least some of the terminations are being paid for by taxpayers, with Queensland Health agreeing to foot the bill.
Public hospital obstetricians may launch a test case in the Supreme Court as early as this week to force the establishment of a legal precedent regarding abortions which involve severe foetal abnormalities.
But legal advice suggests this could only be done if the doctors are unable to refer a woman elsewhere.
Obstetricians say this is a distinct possibility in the short-term, as private facilities become overloaded with public hospital patients who frequently request terminations late in a pregnancy.
About 300 of the estimated 14,000 abortions performed in Queensland each year are done in public hospitals.
Cairns obstetrician Caroline de Costa said the latest poll results were not surprising.
“Other surveys have shown a majority of Queenslanders believe that women should have access to safe, legal abortion,” Professor de Costa said.
Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ president Ted Weaver said the poll should prompt the Bligh Government to legislate to support the wishes of society.
“I think it’s really up to the government to work out a way forward,” Dr Weaver said. “The ball’s firmly in the government’s court.”
Queensland public hospital obstetricians say they are unlikely to resume performing terminations until they receive written assurances from the government that they are “supported and indemnified”.
Queensland Health did not comment.