About one hundred people attended a Brisbane rally on November 21 to demand free, safe and accessible abortion and that the charges of “procuring an abortion” against a Cairns couple, be dropped.
Speakers at the rally included representatives of the Humanist Society of Queensland, the Queensland Greens and the Women’s Abortion Access Collective (NSW).
Queensland Greens speaker, Jennie Harvie, announced that their party has passed a motion to decriminalise abortion. “We believe that it is essential that this piece of repressive legislation is removed permanently from the Criminal Code and that it be recognised as a health and reproductive matter,” she said.
Marg Kirkby from the Women’s Abortion Access Collective (WAAC, NSW) stressed the importance of keeping abortion accessible rather than restricting access to abortion as some doctors in Queensland have been doing. As a “form of political pressure”, such a strategy only disadvantages vulnerable women in the here and now. Challenging anti-abortion laws has been the most effective form of action in the past.
After a spirited march through the city, coat hangers with the message, “We will not wait five years, we will not wait ten years, we will not wait one year,” for abortion reform, were symbolically hung on the fence of Parliament House.
Bligh has consistently attempted to sideline abortion law reform. But the up-coming trial of the Cairns couple and the ramifications of the charges restricting abortion in Queensland give an immediacy to this issue.
Queensland doctors, following legal advice, are still refusing to perform abortion procedures despite Bligh’s attempts to appease the doctors by altering the criminal code. For nearly three months now, women requiring abortions have been being sent to interstate hospitals. The changes made to section 282 of the code were supposed to protect doctors performing medical as well as surgical abortions. But pro-abortion Dr Caroline de Costa stated that the change “applies strictly to cases that conform with the law, and that’s a very limited number of cases.”
The fate of the Cairns couple, currently awaiting trial, rests in the hands of the Department of Public Prosecutions. The Attorney-general has the power to drop the charges at any time. Despite majority opinion in favour of changing the law, Anna Bligh and the parliamentary Labor Party refuse to decriminalisation abortion.
By Susan Shaw
The QLD-based Pro-Choice Action Collective (PCAC) has joined with WAAC NSW to hold a nationwide conference on reproductive rights in Sydney, February 6-7, 2010. For more information on PCAC, see prochoiceactionqld.org