Premier Bligh rejects bid for Queensland abortion reform

A push by doctors and pro-choice activists to have abortion decriminalised in Queensland has been formally refused.

State Attorney-General Cameron Dick has officially responded to 4368 petitioners who called for Queensland to remove abortion from its Criminal Code in the wake of a Cairns couple being committed to trial for procuring an abortion.

“The Premier has made clear that the government has no plans to undertake a wider review of the general abortion laws,” Mr Dick wrote in his response, tabled in Queensland parliament on Christmas Eve.

“Any move to change the legislative provisions concerning abortion would have to be introduced as a private member’s bill and be subject to a conscience vote. The Premier has indicated that she would not seek to bind any of her colleagues to a particular position.”

More than 6000 Queenslanders signed an opposing petition arguing to keep the legislation as it is.

The abortion debate was reignited in Queensland with the laying of criminal charges against Cairns couple Tegan Leach, 19, and Sergie Brennan, 21, for allegedly procuring an abortion using drugs imported from Ukraine.

The pair were committed to trial in September. If convicted, Ms Leach faces up to seven years’ jail and Mr Brennan a maximum of three years.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has pushed for abortion to be decriminalised in Queensland. There was also concern among doctors that the laying of charges against Ms Leach and Mr Brennan would mean medical abortions — as opposed to the surgical termination of pregnancies — would be illegal.

The Bligh government moved to clarify the law and amendments were passed in September to extend legal protection to those medical practitioners who carry out medical terminations.

Mr Dick’s decision has attracted praise from anti-abortion groups and criticism from those who are pro-choice.

Australian Christian Lobby chief of staff Lyle Shelton said the decision showed “integrity” on the Bligh government’s behalf.

Queensland is one of the few states to retain criminal sanctions against abortion on the statute books.

Caroline de Costa, the Cairns-based professor of obstetrics who suspended her abortion service using the drug RU486 after Ms Leach and Mr Brennan were charged by police, said the Attorney-General’s decision meant Queensland was out of step with the rest of Australia.

“Keeping (abortion) in the Criminal Code means it’s a grey area for the public and also for doctors,” she said.


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