Queensland Vote on Abortion Legislation

The Termination of Pregnancy Bill has been past in Parliament last week with 50 votes to 41 to decriminalise pregnancy termination in Queensland. This law now means abortion in Queensland will be available at up to 22 weeks.

Over a few days the state members each gave their emotional speech in Parliament and below is Simone Wilson, Member for Pumicestone’s speech.

The ISLAND and Surrounds newspaper does not have any opinion at all on this new legislation.

Simone Wilson MP

Member for Pumicestone

Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018

Mr Speaker, I rise to make a contribution to the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 and start by acknowledging the work of the Committee comprising the Members for Thuringowa, Caloundra, Maiwar, Nicklin, Rockhampton and Lytton, in addition to the Committee Secretariat, Hansard reporters and all others who assisted the Committee in their work in considering this Bill.

I thank those who came before the Committee in person and those who provided submissions on what is a highly emotive and deeply complex issue. I thank also the officials from the Department of Health for their contributions to this Bill.

As a first time Member of this Parliament, I cannot imagine a more sensitive and challenging Bill for a Committee to consider and I thank the Members for their work on behalf of myself and the Pumicestone Electorate.

If I can begin with the comments of general practitioner, Dr Heather McNamee during her evidence to the Committee who said “I would rather no Australian woman ever had to have an abortion ever again, but contraception is not perfect, and lives are far from perfect. In fact, there is a lot of chaos in women’s lives”.

I wish to thank Dr McNamee for this succinct and rather powerful remark which has helped me to consider my position regarding the details of this Bill.

Mr Speaker, the primary objectives of the Bill ask us to consider enabling the reasonable and safe access by women to terminations of pregnancy and to regulate the conduct of registered health practitioners in relation to terminations.

As deep and divided as honourable member’s beliefs may be in regards to the termination of a pregnancy, I hope to make my contribution in a manner that will not diminish or inflame those feelings.

From my perspective, the issue of whether we agree or not with abortion becomes almost immaterial if we are to accept, as we are asked to by the Minister for Health, the premise that termination of pregnancy is a health matter and therefore a matter between a woman and her medical practitioner.

We are asked to consider the health and wellbeing of the woman, which, as legislators we should always do.

But by virtue of this, we are also asked to not consider the rights of the unborn child as the full provisions of this Bill imply that this right has not yet been established by birth.

I can not and will not support this premise.

For me personally, being raised with strong Catholic beliefs has, I am sure, shaped my views on matters of life and death.

That being said, the last thing that we, as Catholics, would ever seek to do is to impose our values, beliefs and ideals or their consequences upon others.

I do know so much as to the fact that my life journey is not representative of all women and a termination of pregnancy is something so far removed from my world as an individual.

I have considered this deeply in my reflections on this Bill and its objectives.

I also know so much as to the irrefutable fact that what makes abortion safe is when it is available on the woman’s request and is universally accessible and affordable.

From this point, I believe that the current laws as they stand in sections 224 to 226 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 that establish it as unlawful to attempt to procure a termination of pregnancy (except for some vague saving clauses that allow abortions in certain circumstances) make sense only for punitive and deterrent purposes. But they have failed on both accounts.

I lean towards to the views of the World Health Organisation who state that ‘restricting legal access to abortion does not decrease the need for abortion’.

If we are then to accept that the need for abortions (whether we agree with abortion or not) will continue regardless, as they continue to do right now in Queensland - then maintaining the criminalization of abortion within the Criminal Code is no longer, in my view, fit for purpose.

The current laws also place medical professionals in a treacherous position because of the very murky uncertainty of illegality they are clinically confronted with.

On the grounds I have just outlined, I support the provisions of this Bill that seek to decriminalise the termination of pregnancy.

I do however add a caveat to this support – that being that abortions will continue to be performed in Queensland, the status quo will remain as it has for many many years, regardless of the debate today and despite the successful passage of this Bill or otherwise.

Other provisions set out in this Bill to achieve its objectives in good conscience I will not be supporting.

I do not support there being no adequate safeguard against the termination of potentially healthy babies from very late terms abortions, including abortions on babies up until full term.

What I have found to be conflicting in all this is the current provisions in law around stillborn babies and please allow me to explain.

Queensland Health issues an information sheet about what happens if your baby is stillborn.

It states that if your baby is stillborn at 20 weeks or more, or weighed 400 grams or more at birth, or died after birth, the law in Queensland requires a burial or cremation.

It goes on to say that “Your baby’s birth and death must be registered with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages”.

I am conflicted by this on a number of levels.

If we approach this more cynically, then one could draw from this that the life of a stillborn baby is more valued than the life of an aborted baby even if they happen to be at the same gestation - 20 weeks or more.

It is inconceivable to me that this Bill seeks to enable terminations up to 22 weeks without a woman needing a reason, and beyond 22 weeks with the permission of a medical practitioner who consults another and agrees, yet there remains a different set of rules for the unborn aborted child to that of the stillborn of the same gestational period.

The regulations surrounding a stillborn baby from 20 weeks gestation onwards recognise the life of the child – yet there is no recognition for the aborted even up to full term.

This in my view leaves a sharp and inhumane distinction of the value of life between a stillborn child and one that has been aborted.

There is one other aspect of this Bill that I will touch on and that is the lack of safeguards and permissions for younger girls, minors, who seek a termination of their unwanted pregnancy.

Unless I have missed this in my readings, and I am happy to stand corrected, both the Bill and the Committee’s Report are silent on this.

Apart from the Bill noting that a Woman means a female person of any age – there appears to be no distinction to child who seeks an abortion and to a adult seeking an abortion.

I would like to hear from the Minister in regards to this as I believe there would be numbers of young girls, minors, in Queensland with unplanned pregnancies seeking abortion.

What are the protections for them?

Must a parent be notified before an abortion is provided?

Must a parent consent before an abortion is provided to their child?

Do the same provisions of no reason up to 22 weeks apply?

What happens to a child who seeks a later term abortion after 22 weeks?

What are the protections for minors and why has such an important issue as this been left silent in this Bill?

I respectfully ask those who support the Bill to bear this in mind and not sweep minors under a dirt pile of legislating at all costs. This is too important.

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From the Editor

Welcome to issue 57, Phew! The election is over. 😊 The LOCAL News would like to congratulate Ali King, Labor Member and MLA for Pumicestone, Ali made quite a lot of promises to our electorate and so

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