It’s still not legal to get an abortion in Queensland. Or NSW. This is 2016, and in our so-called progressive country the State continues to retain the right to make our bodies its moral territory.
It’s a biological gerrymander with ethical and political borders still focused on our fertility.
Earlier this week, Queensland’s Parliamentary inquiry into abortion law reform rejected Women’s Right To Choose Bill to decriminalise abortion across the state. Clearly being barefoot and pregnant is still the idealised female condition in the sunshine state — whether she likes it or not.
In Queensland, abortion is defined as unlawful and women can be criminally prosecuted for accessing abortion. The Children By Choice Association Website cites legislation under Section 225 of the criminal code which states:
‘Any woman, who with intent to procure her own miscarriage, whether she is or is not with child, unlawfully administers to herself any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind or uses any other means whatever, or permits any such thing or means to be administered or used to her, is guilty of a crime, and is liable to imprisonment for seven years’.
This is a criminal code that dates back to 1899, reflecting the moral and social values of an era that preceded women having status as independent citizens. We didn’t even have the vote then. Our bodies were the property of our parents, then our husbands, and ultimately, the government.
Thanks to the work of forward-thinking suffragettes, feminists and those who championed equality, diversity and inclusion, we are now supposedly stakeholders in a system that is meant to recognise and protect our rights.
In Victoria, the Abortion Law Reform Act in 2008 allowed for the provision of an abortion on request by a qualified person if the woman is less than 24 weeks pregnant. South Australia was the first state to liberalise abortion through legislation. Even Tasmania decriminalised abortion (up to 16 weeks) back in 2013.
So then why is it that in Queensland and NSW that terminating a pregnancy is still ‘illegal’? How can one country have so many different laws to govern who terminates the tenancy of our uteruses?
Is it that all uteruses are equal, just that some uteruses are more equal than others? Depending what state you are in?
See some of the incredible Australians who are pro-choice. (Post continues after gallery.)
Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get an abortion in NSW or Queensland. You can. But your referring doctor has to claim the procedure is being recommended to prevent serious danger to the woman’s mental and physical health.
To access abortion legally, our medical record has to reflect our tenuous emotional and financial situation. Even if it isn’t. A woman in NSW or QLD must acquiesce to the role of a victim to access a medical procedure on her own body.
I have had four children from seven pregnancies. I terminated three. I don’t regret a single one of those decisions. They were my decisions and made for very personal and rational reasons, but they are forever recorded on my medical record as necessary for my mental health.
I resent that to access a legal procedure I was, and women in NSW and QLD are in a sense, coerced to ‘lie’ so we meet the ‘rule of necessity’ required to access the procedure.
Making abortion illegal is not only an outrage at a political level; at a personal level it creates a moral discomfort which shrouds the subject in shame and secrecy.
I don't regret a single decision.
Imagine a conversation like this:
"Hi Mandy, what have you been up to this week?"
"Oh I’ve been flat out, had a report to file, got the car serviced, and yesterday I had an abortion."
This conversation doesn’t happen. Abortion is not the stuff of informal chit chat. I am not allowed to be flippant. I must be distressed. Ashamed. And showing some form of mental duress. Abortion is the stuff of whispers and secrets. It's not something you tell people.
Many years ago I was MC at a friend’s wedding. I hadn’t met many people in the wedding party. The Best Man was strangely familiar. He kept smiling at me and winking. I couldn’t place him, but I felt we had some sort of connection.
As I’m speaking I catch his eye and I say on the microphone, "Did we meet in a past life? I feel I know you." The room goes quiet. All the women laugh awkwardly. Then there’s this awful silence. The bride looks at me shaking her head giving me the glare that says "don't’ even go there". Suddenly I remember exactly who he was. He was the abortionist at the only clinic within 500 kilometres of where I live. That’s the man who had terminated three of my pregnancies over the past decade. Every woman in that room knew exactly who he was. He’d seen all our cervixes. As it turned out, he really was the ‘best man’. None of the other blokes had a clue.
It’s 2016. It’s Australia. It’s my vote. My tax. My job. My life. And it’s my body.
A woman shouldn’t need a Bill to be passed to have control of her uterus.