In Australia Queenslanders rejects bill to decriminalise abortion as ‘not good enough’

Doctors’ professional bodies have spoken out loud and clear in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland. Moreover, a recent survey found that 87% of Queenslanders say abortion should be lawful in the first trimester: 61% unconditionally and 26% depending on the circumstances. There is also community support for abortions after the first trimester being a woman’s choice. A majority of Australians support women’s access to lawful termination even after 24 weeks when there is good reason. Support for lawful access to termination is higher when there are maternal or fetal complications than when there are personal reasons. There is little support for professional sanctions against doctors for providing terminations. And Australians who nominate a religious affiliation are only slightly less likely to oppose sanctions than those who say they have no religion.On 26 August 2016, the report of the bipartisan committee of the Queensland Parliament inquiring into abortion law reform in the state was released. Pyne’s bill was the first attempt in history to remove offences that make abortion a crime for doctors, women and any person assisting with an abortion procedure from the Queensland Criminal Code (QCC) of 1899.Queensland’s parliament has no upper house, so the parliamentary committee system plays an important role in reviewing proposed legislation. This particular committee worked hard, calling for submissions from across the state and receiving more than 1,400 of them (the average number is normally about 20), and 31 hours of evidence. They then produced a 117-page report that deals comprehensively with every aspect of termination of pregnancy in Queensland.The committee found itself unable to make a recommendation that the Pyne bill be passed by Parliament as “it failed to address a number of important policy issues and to achieve a number of its own stated objectives”. However, the report also notes that a second bill Health (Abortion Law Reform) Bill 2016, introduced by Mr Pyne, proposes “to regulate some of the matters that have been raised during the committee’s current inquiry” as an add-on bill to his first bill. The second bill was tabled on 17 August, after he had considered the submissions to the inquiry and the direction the committee appeared to be taking.The second bill has now gone to the same committee, but no action has yet been taken on it. The Crikey authors hope that further inquiry “reveals that these matters have been adequately addressed in the second bill and that the two bills can be passed during the term of the current Parliament”.SOURCES: Practical Ethics, by Julian Savulescu, 29 August 2016 ; Stuff, 30 August 2016 ; Crikey, by Caroline de Costa, Heather Douglas, 31 August 2016 ; Green Left Weekly, by Kamala Emanuel + PHOTO, 1 September 2016