Abortion laws in Queensland

Queensland Parliament has no choice but to act on abortion laws
The Queensland government has tried their best for a quite a few years to ignore the calls to change the state’s laws on abortion. However, whatever your views are on abortion, the issue in Queensland can no longer be avoided by the Queensland Parliament.
The situation for individual women seeking an abortion and for doctors prepared to provide it is now totally untenable.
It has now http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25976894-601,00.html been reported that
Public hospitals in Rockhampton and Mackay are believed to have joined the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in suspending medical abortions, while a service attached to Cairns Base Hospital is also reviewing its legal position.
…. more hospitals are set to follow and suspend drug-induced abortion services
and Queensland women are now having to travel to Sydney for a medical abortion.
Because this issue will always be treated as a conscience vote, it means traditional party controls and discipline do not apply.
If a majority in the Queensland Parliament do believe that abortion should be illegal, then let them have a vote to confirm that.  There would obviously be many people unhappy about this outcome, but at least it would provide certainty and clarity about what the law is.
At present, the legal uncertainty means Queensland has the worst of both worlds on the issue.
Even though the Premier and her Ministers in Cabinet may not be wanting to have a full debate, the Parliament as a whole should have the final say on bringing on any proposed changes to the law for debate. Each individual MP would also be free to move amendments to any Bill that is brought forward.
Cairns-based gynaecologist Caroline de Costa has been http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/06/02/legal-issues-lead-cairns-doctors-to-cease-medical-abortion/  writing regularly http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/06/12/the-abortion-law-reform-saga-continues-in-queensland/  in Crikey http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/07/14/misinformation-abounds-in-cairns-abortion-case/  over many http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/08/03/cairns-abortion-case-young-couple-flee-after-molotov-cocktail-thrown-into-home/ months now http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/08/24/abortion-in-queensland-an-illegal-ambiguity/  assiduously documenting the untenable situation which has developed in Queensland following the decision to charge a young from Cairns with procuring and assisting to procure her own abortion.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh has kept trying to avoid the issue throughout this time, stating that while her personal view is that abortion should be a matter between a woman and her doctor, there shouldn’t be any attempt to change the existing law, supposedly because there wouldn’t be the numbers in the Queensland Parliament for it to succeed.
Personally, I am not so convinced about that, but even so, I don’t see that as sufficient reason not to bring on a debate, which would at least clarify the issue.
This has always been an issue that is treated as a conscience vote by all parties in the Parliament, where traditional party line votes don’t occur.  Efforts have been made by some in the Labor Party to introduce a Private Members Bill (i.e. legislation that is not formally produced or backed by the government).  This was done successfully in the federal Parliament in regards to RU486, where a Bill sponsored by a Senator from each of the Liberal, Labor, Democrat and National parties.   However, while legislation on a matter which is seen as a conscience vote can be introduced by any MP, the decision about whether or not to allow that legislation to be debated and voted on is still a government decision – unless enough individual members of the governing party willing to defy such a decision, which does not occur when Labor is the governing party.
Even though most surveys suggest a clear majority of Australians support safe abortion being made available to a woman who seeks it, politicians of all parties usually tend to shy away from bringing on debates on the issue.  This may be more due to the fact it can be quite divisive within a party, than the fact it can be lead to strident debate within society.
The big benefit of a conscience vote is that it makes each individual member of Parliament individually accountable for what they do. They can’t hide behind the party room or caucus.
There is no doubt this is an issue where have people have very strong and genuinely held beliefs on both sides of the debate. That situation might require a special effort be made to have as respectful a debate as possible, but it is no reason to dodge the debate all together.

I’ve done a long post for Crikey on the current untenable situation regarding Queensland’s abortion laws.

In short, the situation for individual women seeking an abortion and for doctors prepared to provide it is now totally untenable.

It has now been reported that

Public hospitals in Rockhampton and Mackay are believed to have joined the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital in suspending medical abortions, while a service attached to Cairns Base Hospital is also reviewing its legal position.…. more hospitals are set to follow

The Queensland government has tried their best for a quite a few years to ignore the calls to change the state’s laws on abortion. However, whatever your views are on abortion, the issue in Queensland can no longer be avoided by the Queensland Parliament.

Because this issue will always be treated as a conscience vote, it means traditional party controls and discipline do not apply.

If a majority in the Queensland Parliament do believe that abortion should be illegal, then let them have a vote to confirm that.  There would obviously be many people unhappy about this outcome, but at least it would provide certainty and clarity about what the law is.

At present, the legal uncertainty means Queensland has the worst of both worlds on the issue.  For those who totally oppose abortion, they are still going ahead, and more of them are likely to be done via unsafe ‘do it yourself’ use of drugs.  For those who support the right to abortion, no one is sure how the laws apply – also leading to more ‘underground’ or ‘do it yourself’ attempts.

The big benefit of a conscience vote is that it makes each individual member of Parliament individually accountable for what they do. They can’t hide behind the party room or caucus.

There is no doubt this is an issue where have people have very strong and genuinely held beliefs on both sides of the debate. That situation might provide reason to make a special effort to have as respectful a debate as possible, but it is no reason to dodge the debate all together.

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61 Comments

  1. LORIKEET:

    One of the amendments put forward by our member in Victoria was that pain killer injections be provided to the child but that was voted down. They offer more to an animal than they would to a child.

    Lorikeet says: If it only has club feet or a cleft palate, I think the abortion should have been refused. I think thats when Doctors should be prosecuted.
    SL Says: This is not about an unwanted child. It is an unwanted pregnancy
    Arent they the same ?

    SL Says: While being pregnant with a wanted child mayindeed be a rewarding experience, for most women to carry an unwanted child to term would be the epitome of degradation and punishment

    The debate here is not about the pros and cons of being a male or female. Men may think that having to pay child maintenance without a say is also a form of degradation and punishment.

    Whatever our sex we have to take responsibilty for our actions and refusing ones responsibility it seems is the catch cry of todays generation. As lorikeet says…its the “all about me age”

    Tony

  2. Abortions should be legal.
    There are many people that cannot afford to raise children, or are too young.
    Why bring a child into the world if you cannot look after it?
    Abortions are not killing the child, as long as it is done in the earlier stages of pregnancy.

  3. Anne

    Anne Says: Abortions should be legal

    Anne also says: (obviously hasn’t been reading the thread) Abortions are not killing the child, as long as it is done in the earlier stages of pregnancy.

    So its okay to kill them if you cant afford it, or your too young.
    Then Justify it by saying its not really killing as long as you terminate early.

    How early would that be Anne ?

    Isn’t it sad that the first option is always……Lets kill the child.
    Then they attempt to justify it by whatever means. When really it’s just the “me society” they’ve been brought up in.

    Where are we leading our youth?

  4. tony – it was ever thus and will ever be thus. Your angst is the same angst as our parents had and will be the same angst as our children will have.

    There is no inherent wisdom in only one point of reference

  5. “Men may think that having to pay child maintenance without a say is also a form of degradation and punishment”

    Tony, there’s a way for a man to avoid paying child maintenance. Don’t have intercourse with women. Learn to perform cunniligus (a challenging concept for some men, granted) or become gay.

    I would venture that paying child maintenance is a long way below the “humiliation scale” from what child birth does to a women’s body. The anatomical equivilent of a forth degree tear on a set of male genitals is something that, if it were the outcome of conception for men, would result in abortion clinics springing up on every street corner. And that is just one minor example of the myriad of physical impacts that pregnancy and birth do to a woman. Child maintenance can — and often is — avoidable for men. Urinary incontinence and varicose veins from childbearing are not.

    The reality is that behind the faux tears for widdle unborn babeez, the real reason for the opposition to abortion is about sex. And it is about women having sex. Compulsory birth is punishment for women who have sex. It is about slut-shaming and returning to the good old days when women feared sex — even in marriage. The good old days when sex’s primary purpose was to make babies and please men. The good old days when a woman did not know any better because she could not compare different men’s performances. I suspect that the driver behind calls to remove womens reproductive control is to ensure an insurance policy for sexually insecure men, embarrassed by their sexual ineptitude.

  6. ” I think women should follow my lead and refuse to have sex with men with a purely selfish agenda who would want to murder their babies.”

    Lorikeet, you (somewhat smugly) go on ahead and refuse men sex if that makes you feel good about yourself. I will not stop you. Of course, you are cognisant that there are plenty of women like me who are willing to take your place and share in some quick pleasure with such men.

    Tony — an unwanted pregnancy is very different to an unwanted child. Pregnancy and birth are not akin to having a tooth extraction. If you are more than willing to inflict the anatomical equivelent of the bodily distortion of pregnancy and childbirth injuries on yourself for every conception, you may then be able to have some empathy in determining women’s reproductive rights.

    Like I said, this is really about sex. It is about people’s sexual insecurities and people projecting their insecurities..

    The truth is, women like me – the ones you want to call the “me” generation – quite rightly are demanding our lifetime’s allotment of orgasms without the inconvenience of sore and distended breasts, a bulging belly, a mutilated front passage and a screaming child at the end of it. I just wanna shag for fun. There, I have said it.

    And I know that people like you hate that. If that bothers you, then feel free to burn up about it. You are enraged that someone is having all the fun and dodging the bullet. You want affirmation that the restrictive decisions you have made for yourselves regarding your sexual conduct are valid. You see others’ refusal to behave in the same way as some kind of affront to you.

    And deep, deep down inside you, a little voice is saying “that is not fair. I am missing out. Where’s my fun?”

  7. Ken:

    I think you are wrong.

    My grandmothers had 10 and 12 children respectively. My mother had 6 children when she only wanted 2. Despite personal hardship, none of these women would ever have considered killing their unborn children to suit their own convenience or financial situation.

    Anne:

    I had 2 children when I was 20. Neither was a planned pregnancy. While it was a terrible struggle in the first few years, neither my husband nor I would have killed the products of our love for purely selfish reasons. Life struggles are character building and, in most instances, hold a family together.

    There is quite a difference between “cannot” and “will not”.

    There is also a choice of allowing others in better circumstances to raise the child you do not want yourself.

    Tony:

    I don’t consider a pain-killing injection to be much of an option unless it is a lethal one. Otherwise the baby would still die an uncomfortable death from asphyxiation as its lungs dried out.

    According to tonight’s news, doctors can now legally use medical and surgical terminations of pregnancies in specified circumstances.

    Too bad no one is willing to crack down on illegal abortions which are much too easily procured by selfish people.

    Too bad no one is willing to teach a reasonable standard of morality that should be part of Family Planning classes.

  8. The famous American wit HL Mencken, with the following aphorism.
    “Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, maybe happy”.
    Although I do have a sense that we in the rich West do overdo things, a bit.
    I do have sympathy with the conservative idea that we need to value things and take “others” less for granted and that we are encouraged by consumerism to “self” and its illusory choices a little more than is needed, particularly when scarce (including health) resources we overuse are often in short supply in the third world.
    But ultimately, people are not robots. We are created through our choices and the effort exerted in making them; good or bad. In the end I and I alone must live with the consequences of my decisions
    Like SL, I resent others attempting to impose their wills on me over my head, for no better than the advancement of their own agendas, prejudices and illusions.
    Especially without even an attempt, at thinking through what impact that might have on me. Too much like buying a used car merely on the say so of a used car salesman?
    I shudder at the despicable humiliation of the young Cairns couple, for no better than the satisfaction of the blood-lust of unthinking control-freaks with little understanding of the nature of their own biases.
    Otherwise, they would have applied the mental effort required to acquire Socrates’ insight that “an unconsidered life is hardly worth living”, for that is what happens when people attempt impose values brainwashed into them , therefore unexamined prejudices, on others.
    Most of all when these people would bitterly resent others doing the same to them.
    That they do not realise that, demonstrates how little actual mental effort some have put into formulating unconsidered totalitarian positions, before seeking to impose them on others.

  9. sl, like you i also want to have sex and enjoy orgasm and sex whenever I want it. It is what most people want from puberty on.
    Fortunately I like most people take responsibility for my actions, and refrain from sex unless it is within a committed relationship.
    I also recognise that a child is likely to be conceived as a result of my sexual act. I recognise that if a child is conceived as part of that sex act, it has the same right to a life as I have.
    Therefore i refrain from sex unless I am sure any child who may be conceived is ensured of the same right to life as I am.
    I have ensured the right to life of each child i have, and taking responsibility for their health and education untill they were productive citicizens of this great country

  10. I’ve wrriten a short new post with a few links to developments in the week since I first wrote this one. It also includes a link to an interview I did with Qld Labor Senator Claire Moore.

    So I’ll close comments on this thread now. I’ll leave to readers to decide for themselves whether or not this thread managed the ‘respectful debate’ I suggested at the end of this post.

Comments are closed.