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Queensland decriminalises abortion: "One of the most staggeringly dangerous legislations"

17 October 2018

 
Members of the group Abortion Rethink outside Queensland Parliament on Tuesday. AAP Image: Darren England

"One of the most staggeringly dangerous legislations" in Australian history

As Diana Johnson prepares to introduce her ten minute rule bill on decriminalising abortion next week, the Australian state of Queensland has today approved an equally extreme bill.

After a two day debate, members of the state Parliament voted 50 votes to 41 to remove abortion from the criminal law. Under the changes, abortion will be made a "health issue" and permitted on demand up to 22 weeks. Abortion will also be permitted after 22 weeks with the approval of two doctors, and "safe zones" will be enforced around clinics to block pro-life vigils.

Devastating consequences

Abortion Rethink, who campaigned against the bill, said "Queensland has voted in one of the most staggeringly dangerous legislations in the history of our nation. Those who voted (50 - 41) are now to blame for any of the potentially devastating consequences of those women performing terminations on themselves (allowed in Section 10 of the Bill,) for removing fundamental rights of healthcare practitioners (Sect 10,) for promoting opportunities for further increase in coercion of women to terminate against their wills with no allowance for counselling or informed consent practices and so much more."

"The foetus in the womb is a baby"

The debate in parliament was an emotive one, with some strong interventions by MPs opposing the bill. Tim Mander, LNP Deputy Opposition Leader, said the bill was flawed and morally wrong. "I believe as do hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders that the foetus in the womb is a baby," he said. "It is a human being. This is not a religious view, this is a scientific fact. And because of this it's just wrong in my opinion to allow a perfectly healthy baby to be killed on demand up to 22 weeks gestation."

Personal experience

Nick Dametto MP told of how his now-wife fell pregnant while the couple was still in high school. "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, Mr Dametto said he would not be able to live with the "killing of our unborn son or daughter" on his conscience, and he would not support the bill.

"Just think about killing Ted over here"

The most passionate opposing speech came from Ted Sorensen MP, who broke down in tears as he recounted how his own birth had been the result of an unplanned pregnancy. "I stand here today as a survivor — and if this law was present in those days I would not be alive to speak on behalf of all the babies who have the right to live," Mr Sorensen said. "I believe that I had the right to live, I still believe that."

"I was fostered out at 13 months, but I've had a good life, I've been blessed," he said. "I have an adopted daughter; I love her greatly. Why should she have been terminated for? She's grown up with us, she's enjoyed life, she's got two beautiful children.

"But this bill says we can terminate it all. Why? Think about it, when you vote on it, just think about killing Ted over here, because that's what you're doing to my heart today."

New South Wales, where a decriminalisation bill was defeated last year, is now the only Australian territory where abortion remains in the criminal law.

 

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