Member for Keppel, Brittany Lauga.Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
Member for Keppel, Brittany Lauga.Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka ROK030816alauga1

Qld abortion bill could see protests banned from clinics

KEPPEL MP Brittany Lauga says Rob Pyne's Abortion Law Reform Bill is something Queensland has wanted for a long time.

The Cairns MP last week tabled a bill that would seek to amend the Health Act 1937 to include guidelines around the practice of legal termination in Queensland, building upon the Abortion Law Reform (Women's Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016 introduced by Mr Pyne in May.

While the initial bill introduced by Mr Pyne sought to decriminalise abortion in Queensland, this bill provides guidelines around how legal abortion would operate in Queensland.

Restrictions on procedure

If abortion does become legal the bill legislates that after a woman is 24 weeks pregnant, a termination procedure can only be performed with the approval of two doctors who "reasonably" believe that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve greater risk or injury to the physical or mental health of the women than if the pregnancy were terminated.

Ms Lauga said the state's current laws around abortion are archaic, unclear and disadvantages vulnerable Queensland women.

"It's time for them to change," she said.

"I believe that abortion is a medical procedure, and should be treated as such.

"Accessing safe and legal abortion procedures is tough for a lot of Queensland women, particularly rural and regional women and women from low socio-economic backgrounds."

Terminations already a reality in Queensland

Through varying implementation of 2013 guidelines, it is possible for women in Queensland to have an abortion through a private provider, but the process is extremely expensive and services are limited outside of metropolitan areas.

The Morning Bulletin did an extensive investigative report into abortions in Rockhampton, and found it was not uncommon for women to pay around $800 for a termination before 12 weeks. See story here

Ms Lauga said the gestational limits would hopefully move to remove stigma around the procedure.

"By decriminalising abortion and putting in place health regulations such as gestational limits, we will help to remove the stigma around getting an abortion, and hopefully stop women from remote areas or who can't afford to have an abortion through a private clinic seeking out unsafe or harmful procedures instead," she said.

Late term termination a rarity

"In the Public Health Association of Australia's submission to the Abortion Inquiry run by the Parliamentary Health Committee, they noted that late term abortions are extremely rare, with only 0.7% of terminations occurring after 20 weeks.

"These terminations occur due to exceptional circumstances such as foetal abnormalities or risk to the mother. I believe that this bill will help to assuage fears about late term abortion within Queensland."

An end to clinic protests

Ms Lauga also said she was pleased to see the bill introducing "safe zones" around termination clinics.

The bill seeks to introduce safe access zones of fifty metres around facilities which provide terminations.

This would mean that person seeking to "intimidate, or impede the access of a person entering or leaving the facility" would be subject to penalty, putting an end to protesters interacting with women outside clinics.

The move would see people like Rockhampton's Mark Ross barred from the footpath.

The 72-year-old spent 15 years praying and handing out pamphlets to women accessing termination services in Rockhampton. See story here

"Women and staff are often harassed and abused by anti-choice activists who choose to picket abortion providers," Ms Lauga said.

"Women are often filmed or have their pictures taken.

"This impedes women's access to information, services and privacy.

"It also makes it difficult for staff to go to their place of work, and can pose a serious threat to their safety. Providing such zones will not stop people's right to protest, but will protect women and staff from harassment." 

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