In Queensland, abortion is illegal.
It’s criminalised; written upon the pages of the Criminal Code in the same ink that forbids murder, and treason.
There are still Australian women unable to seek out an abortion without breaking the law.
A woman who “unlawfully” has an abortion in Queensland can be liable for up to 7 years imprisonment, according to the code; anyone “unlawfully” administering the abortion can be liable for up to 14 years. – Source: ABC online.
Queensland’s Criminal Code is the document governing laws in Australia’s most North-Eastern state. It was written in 1899 and many of the laws, despite being socially outdated, have not been given the legal remodelling they so desperately need.
Watch: Everything you need to know about abortion laws in Australia.
Under the current laws, any woman who has an abortion in Queensland may be jailed for up to seven years.
Any doctor unlawfully providing one faces 14.
The Criminal Code of 1899 reads as follows:
Any person who, with intent to procure the miscarriage of a woman, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to her or causes her to take any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind, or uses any other means whatever, is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for 14 years. Source: Queensland Consolidated Acts.
And here I was, thinking us a developed enough society to acknowledge that when it comes to a woman’s body the choice should be hers alone. It’s her right.
“The current laws are from the dark ages," says Renee Carr, Executive Director of Fair Agenda.
Fair Agenda, an organisation promoting fairness and equality for women, recently conducted a survey of 1201 women and found 82% of Queenslanders are in favour of decriminalising abortion.
CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Michael Moore, agrees:
“Our laws should recognise a woman’s right to control all aspects of her own health, including her fertility. The notion of applying the same approach to this medical procedure as we did a hundred years ago is ludicrous and inappropriate."
On March 1 2017 however, the outdated laws may finally change.
Independent MP Rob Pyne put two bills forward to Parliament. Should the two bills pass, the following legislation will come into effect within the Queensland Criminal Code:
- Doctors will be able to perform an abortion without committing a crime.
- Women will be able to consent to, and assist in performing an abortion without committing a crime.
- Protected zones of at least 50 metres will be created around abortion facilities, and harassment prohibited.
In a simplified legal sense? Abortion itself will be decriminalised.
The issue is set to be debated in Parliament on March 1, after which a vote will take place.
It's understood that both the Queensland Labor Government and Liberal National opposition will allow MPs a conscience vote in the poll.
No - the public will not be able to take part directly.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing we can do to make our voice is heard; to make sure women in Queensland are awarded rights to make decisions over their own bodies.
You can also contact your local MP, and ensure your voice is carried to Parliament through them. They are our representatives. It's their job to speak on our behalf.
Other than that, all we can do is hope...
Hope our local MPs cast their votes in the right direction; hope the women of Australia can have their voices heard; and hope our sisters, not only across the country - but across the world - will one day be the sole masters of their fate.
That day can't come soon enough.
You can contact Family Planning Alliance Australia, here.
You can learn more about Fair Agenda, and their 35,000-strong community of campaigning Australians, here.
You can sign the GetUp petition, here.