Intense and passionate community interest has followed moves to decriminalise abortion in Queensland, with a parliamentary committee swamped with more than 2400 submissions.
Article by Felicity Caldwell
Politicians have been accused of being “pro-abortion” and sent emails arguing against reform.
Independent member for Cairns Rob Pyne introduced two private member’s bills into the House, the first aiming to remove abortion from the Criminal Code and the second setting guidelines, the establishment of 50 metre “safe zones” and gestation limits.
The first bill has attracted 1450 submissions to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee, and the second bill 1042 submissions.
To put that in perspective, a bill legislating greater protections for people experiencing domestic violence received 20 submissions whereas a bill featuring contentious pub lockout laws had 774 submissions.
One submission to the committee says a DVD has been sent to every MP, describing the “health risks to women after they’ve had an abortion”.
In Queensland, obtaining or performing an abortion is illegal under the Criminal Code.
Queensland University of Technology political science Professor Clive Bean said more than 2400 submissions was a “pretty high number”.
“I think what it probably reflects is the fact that an issue like abortion is … a vexed issue within the community and within the political community,” Prof Bean said.
“It’s an area that generates a lot of opposition and this is the reason why the major political parties never take a policy stance on an issue like abortion, because it’s too difficult for them.”
Prof Bean said negative reactions from the community could give some parliamentarians “cold feet”.
Mr Pyne said a fellow member of parliament – who he would not disclose – told him some women in Queensland view abortions as a method of birth control.
“It’s almost bizarre, the difference between some of the discussion and debate and modern reality,” he said.
Mr Pyne said the debate was “highly emotive” and some of the emails and feedback he received were “pretty ordinary”.
“It’s certainly been a highly emotive debate that has generated an immense amount of passionate feedback,” he said.
“I have no doubt, and I am sure other politicians are getting emails, that will intimidate them into how they vote.”
Mr Pyne said some people had suggested to him that supporters of reform “want to see more abortions”.
“It’s certainly been put to me that my position is pro-abortion,” he said.
“I’ve never met anyone in my life who says ‘gee, what can we do to get more abortions?’
“It’s just crazy.”
Mr Pyne said he was hopeful either or both of his abortion bills could be passed this year.
“I’d certainly hope for everyone’s sake that we can resolve the matter before Christmas,” Mr Pyne said.
But he said he did not know at this stage if he had the numbers in the House to get the law changed.
“But I know the issue won’t go away,” he said.
In August, the parliamentary committee recommended the first billnot be passed. It is still considering the second bill.
Mr Pyne said Queensland was behind the times and the laws were archaic.
“It’s just really a pretty stark failure of government to move with the times,” he said.
“I guess people have said why haven’t politicians done this before?”
Several petitions have been submitted on the issue, with Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath responding: “When it is debated, government members of parliament will vote with their conscience on the bill, and not be constrained by any political party direction on the matter”.
“I appreciate that the issue of abortion generates robust debate in the community, with strongly held points of view, and I have noted the opinion expressed in these petitions.”
Extracts from submissions on the second bill:
- Heavily subsidising all forms of contraception and ensuring venues that serve alcohol are legally mandated to have condom vending machines
- The bill should also include the provision of information and support to consider the alternatives to abortion
- Life is a choice. Don’t make it impossible to choose it
- Please don’t kill defenceless babies
- Approaching mothers outside abortion clinics provides the valuable service of helping those mothers who are ambivalent about an abortion
- Decriminalising abortion makes the womb the most dangerous place for a child to be in our world today
- Please stop embarrassing the world and the nation with the religious dogma and just make the change
Read more at: brisbanetimes.com.au