Most of us have had a scare at some point. A moment when we’ve wondered ‘what will I do?’
For some of us, it turns out to be a false alarm – and we get on with our lives, breathe easy again, and feel lucky to not have to make that choice. However, between a quarter and a third of all Australian women do make that choice at some point in their lives.
For a woman in Queensland, that choice could be considered a crime. In 2017.
Because in Queensland (and in NSW) abortion is still in the Criminal Code.
In Queensland, archaic abortion laws mean that a woman and her doctor can be criminally prosecuted and face jail time for accessing or providing an abortion – except if it’s performed to prevent serious danger to the woman’s physical or mental health.
These laws date from 1899 – and they’ve been a looming threat over Queenslanders ever since. In fact, they were used to prosecute a couple less than ten years ago.
These out-dated laws mean women seeking abortions are frequently turned away from their local public hospital – and have to struggle to find and fund an appointment with a private clinic or one of the small handful of GPs that can distribute RU486, the medical abortion drug. These are all safe services, and trained providers, but they don’t come cheap. In fact, a woman in need could be looking at anywhere up to $3000 depending on where and when she needs to access the service.
It’s a system that especially punishes regional Queenslanders, who might have to travel for hours to find a provider, and sometimes have to wait weeks for an available appointment. No exemptions are made for women with pregnancies resulting from sexual assault or domestic violence, who are often put through increased – and totally unnecessary – anguish at an already hard time in their lives.
It affects people like the mum living in a domestic violence refuge with her children, pregnant as the result of her partner’s sexual violence against her. She was desperate, and contemplating self-abortion, yet still couldn’t get the help she needed at a major hospital. Or the woman who was told her baby had multiple extremely serious illnesses, and thought she would have to “carry my baby full term and watch her suffer and die”.
They affect women like you and me. And hurt vulnerable people who deserve our compassion and our help.
82 per cent of Queenslanders support a woman’s right to choose. These laws don’t reflect who we are as a society, they’re a relic left over from a time when women had no rights.
The majority of us who support safe and legal access to abortion, are being sidelined by a noisy minority working to maintain laws that treat thousands of women like criminals.
This weekend in Queensland there’s a historic chance to end this degrading situation.
Many Queenslanders don’t realise it, but abortion access is effectively on the ballot in the state election on Saturday 25th November. Because the person they vote for could determine whether or not abortion is decriminalised in Queensland.
Listen: The Mamamia Out Loud Team discuss American abortion law.
There are less than a dozen marginal seat races that could ensure Queensland’s abortion laws are brought into the 21st century. And there are pro-choice champions contesting every single seat across the state.
In all, 155 candidates from across the political spectrum have pledged their support for decriminalising abortion in Queensland.
Fair Agenda’s polling shows that 50 per cent of Queenslanders would be unwilling to vote for a candidate who wants to keep treating abortion as a crime. If you’re one of them, make sure you find out where your candidate stands before you cast your vote.
Sometimes contraceptives fail and things go wrong. We all deserve the dignity of making that decision, and having control over our bodies and health.
Think back to that scare. There’s a woman going through that right now. You can help her this weekend by voting pro-choice.
The link for Queenslanders who want to find out where their candidate stands is www.voteprochoice.org.au
Renee Carr is the Executive Director of Fair Agenda, an independent community of 37,000 Australians campaigning for a fair and equal future for women. www.fairagenda.org