Pro-abortion activists are rallying in Queensland to defend a Cairns couple, Tegan Leach and Sergie Brennan, who have been charged under Queensland’s Criminal Code with attempting to procure an abortion. The couple are due to appear in the Cairns Magistrates Court on June 11.
A rally on June 10 will call for the charges to be dropped and for the Bligh Labor government to immediately remove abortion from the Criminal Code.
Brennan, 22, is alleged to have returned from the Ukraine last December with the abortion drug Misoprostol. The pills were used successfully by Leach (19) to terminate an unwanted 60-day pregnancy.
The couple were charged after police suspiciously raided their home on March 30, on a “tip-off”, and found empty Misoprostol packets. It is unclear what led the couple to obtain the drug from overseas. Misoprostol has been a legal drug in Australia since RU-486 legislation was passed in 2006. In Cairns, it is prescribed by pro-choice gynaecologist Caroline De Costa.
The charges against the couple, rather than the doctor, are the first of their kind in Australia in more than 50 years. Sections 225 and 226 of the Criminal Code outlaw a woman from “attempting to procure an abortion”, and any other person from assisting her. Section 282 of the Code, which allows a “surgical operation” for the preservation of the mother’s life, was broadly interpreted in the 1986 “McGuire Judgement”. Doctors performing abortions and administering Misoprostol have relied on this decision ever since. A conviction would be a serious setback for abortion rights in Queensland.
Children by Choice is already lobbying MPs and the Labor Party. On May 9, the Pro-Choice Action Collective held a successful rally outside parliament demanding the decriminalisation of abortion and that the charges be dropped. A visible movement on the streets is essential to give confidence to the pro-choice majority in Queensland and to counter the anti-abortion bigots supporting the police action.
Cairns gynaecologist Caroline de Costa, who was the first doctor in Australia to legally dispense the controversial abortion drug RU-486 after years of lobbying to have its ban lifted, said Queensland needed to follow Victoria’s lead and take abortion out of the criminal code. “Abortion should not be a crime; it should be controlled by the same health regulations that control things like removing an appendix or treating pneumonia,” Dr de Costa said.
“It is the only part of our health care that is in the criminal code.”
Since 1988, it has been Queensland Labor policy to abolish “all legal distinctions between termination of pregnancy and other medical procedures,” but despite huge majorities in Parliament, successive Labor governments have refused to act.
By Emma Tovell
Rally: Drop the Charges, Repeal All Anti-Abortion Laws: June 10th, 5pm, Brisbane Square (opposite Treasury Casino on Queen Street). Speakers incl Children by Choice.
Contact Kathy 0400 720 757, Emma 0422 763 225