Get the facts: experts support decriminalisation

“Doctors in Queensland have a duty to provide the best patient care that we can offer and Queensland’s current laws regarding termination of pregnancy are a barrier to this.”

– Australian Medical Association Queensland, 2016.

“We certainly at a state level and also federally in our federal position statement on reproductive health feel that termination of pregnancy forms part of many options regarding family planning and the overall holistic care of women. Our hope is that if this procedure were decriminalised then women would be able to access these services earlier, they would be safer and we would hopefully also see it as part of a suite of other options that I mentioned which will prevent unwanted pregnancies as well, which is also very important.”

–  AMAQ, 2016.

“Amnesty International supports the Abortion Reform Amendments Bill 2016 and amending the QLD Criminal Code to decriminalise abortion. These changes would be a step toward QLD upholding international human rights standards and ending the current discriminatory laws. It also means we will align with other Australians states and territories that already have decriminalised abortion.”

– Amnesty International QLD and Northern NSW Branch, 2016.

“Our fundamental issue is that it should not be viewed as a criminal matter, and it needs to be viewed as a health matter. So we support decriminalisation.”

– Beth Mohle, Secretary, Queensland Nurses Union, representing 53,000 members across the state.

“Sections 224, 225 and 226 of the Criminal Code 1899 (Qld) should be repealed. Criminalisation of abortion poses many barriers for women regarding access to information and services, and medical practitioner willingness to provide terminations due to the legal ambiguity. These barriers are compounded for women experiencing domestic violence and reproductive coercion. Today abortion is one of the safest medical or surgical procedures when performed by a qualified health professional. Current regulation of abortion through clinic and hospital licensing conditions and professional practice standards are sufficient to ensure best outcomes and safety for women and their doctors.”

– Women’s Legal Service Qld, 2016.

“We welcome the committee and the Queensland parliament looking at this issue. We believe that it is long overdue and, for the sake of Queensland women, we say that it is time for decriminalisation.”

– Health Consumers Queensland, 2016.

“The Society supports the removal of abortion laws from the Queensland Criminal Code and believes that all women should have access to safe and legal abortion regardless of race, geographical location, gestational stage of pregnancy, or financial situation, and it should not be restricted to those whose life is in danger.

– Sexual Health Society of Queensland, 2016.

“We are in favour of the repeal of the current laws existing around abortion in Queensland (i.e. codes 224, 225 and 226) and to subsequently decriminalise abortion in Queensland. As midwives, obstetricians, and maternity researchers we know that about half of all pregnancies in Australia are unplanned. Unplanned pregnancy is a reality for Australian women – and therefore so is abortion.

– Griffith University Midwifery Department, 2016.

“Queensland parliament should seize the opportunity to reform Queensland laws that criminalise abortion and thereby bring Queensland law into line with clinical practice and common sense. Although it is legal to access and provide abortion in Queensland in some circumstances, abortion nonetheless remains a criminal offence. Women’s basic rights to non-discrimination, privacy and bodily autonomy are threatened by a system under which they risk criminal prosecution for making medical decisions concerning their own body.”

– Human Rights Law Centre, 2016.

“We, the undersigned, represent the bulk of the Specialists in the field of Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) and tertiary Obstetric ultrasound currently working in Queensland. MFM is a subspecialty of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, and amongst other aspects of high-risk pregnancy we deal with many women each year who have concerns about possible fetal abnormalities. For a number of these women the difficult choice of discontinuing the pregnancy is one of the options to be considered. Unfortunately the legal position in Queensland in relation to termination of pregnancy can make it extraordinarily difficult to navigate the health system and gain access to safe and timely clinical services. At a very difficult time, when women are faced with a distressing choice, there is a significant additional burden caused by the fact that abortion is a crime. We think this is intolerable and is not something that should be acceptable in a modern society. We strongly support the decriminalisation of abortion, and would like to see this necessary procedure become a woman’s right to choose, in consultation with her doctor(s).”

– 13 maternal fetal medicine specialists practicing in Queensland, 2016.

“The College strongly supports the decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland, through the Abortion Law Reform (Woman’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016, and particularly supports the removal of sections 224, 225 and 226 from the Criminal Code. Adoption of this Bill will show respect for the important principle of providing women with choice when they find themselves in a situation where termination of pregnancy is an option they would consider.”

– Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2016.

“The Australian Association of Social Workers acknowledges that there are many life circumstances that give rise to women and girls of reproductive age seeking to exercise their reproductive rights, including sexual assault or rape, high risk to a woman’s or a girl’s physical and emotional wellbeing, psychosocial or economic disadvantage, the likelihood of an abnormal foetus or the risk of health complications or the disability of a newborn. We, as with many others who work in this area, are concerned that the existing legislation not only denies women appropriate access to reproductive rights but also particularly disadvantages women who already experience disadvantage. This has been confirmed by organisations that work in this space who report that the most disadvantaged women are currently suffering the most. This includes women who are based in rural and remote areas of the state and those who are experiencing violence in their relationship, just to name a few. Denying access to termination for these women is denying them a fundamental human right to self-determination. The psychological, physical and social consequences of this act can be far-reaching and devastating.”

– Australian Association of Social Workers.

“Hopefully, once or if this issue becomes less politicised, we can get past the idea that it is almost as if to indicate that if you are in favour of abortion law reform you are almost suggesting having an abortion is a good thing. No-one says that and no-one thinks that.”

– Father Frank Brennan, Australian Catholic University.

 

“Our organisation supports a woman’s right to choose across all aspects of pregnancy and we support the removal of sections 224, 225 and 226 from the Queensland Criminal Code. There has been a recurring theme in the online submissions and hearings from yesterday and today that women are valuable and deserve recognition and respect. The current Criminal Code denies women that.

“Nobody knows what is best for a baby more than the pregnant woman. Many terminations are very much wanted and longed for pregnancies. If those concerned with community and values feel that it is okay to dictate and undermine the right of another’s bodily autonomy, that is our biggest failure as a community. If this bill passes—and we hope that it does— any new regulations should be contained within our health legislation. I would hope that passing this bill would see an improvement in services and at the very least a reduction in barriers such as misinformation and stigma. There would also be the opportunity for better controls and safeguards. I would hope that this would be in collaboration with all stakeholders whilst keeping women at the centre of care. A law that could lead to seven years in prison is not the answer.”

– Maternity Choices Australia, 2016.

“You are hearing or have heard from RANZCOG, my college, AMA Queensland, a group of maternal foetal medicine experts led by Dr Glenn Gardener and individual abortion providers—all of us doctors maintaining that we need a 21st century approach to the legal provision of abortion care. We need decriminalisation.”

– Dr Caroline de Costa, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, James Cook University, 2016.

 

 

 

“We emphasise that from a technical legal perspective the regulation of abortion in Queensland is flawed. For this reason alone the law of abortion should be amended. There are problems with the law itself: uncertainties and inconsistencies and issues around its interpretation. Unless sections 224 to 226 of the code are repealed these problems will continue.”

– Australian Centre for Health Law Research, 2016.

“There are serious problems with the current law, including its lack of certainty and the adverse consequences of this uncertainty for women and their treating doctor. All laws must be clear and certain, but this is even more critical in a difficult area such as this. Quite aside from these technical problems with the legal framework, we believe that the law should treat abortion as a health matter, not a criminal matter. We urge the committee to recommend reform of the laws to take them out of the Criminal Code and to be regulated as a health matter. Again, we say that women are responsible decision makers and should be legally entitled to make this profoundly important and difficult decision.”

– Australian Centre for Health Law Research, 2016.

“Abortion should be a decision between a woman and her doctor, and this new health bill provides clarity for women and for health professionals. We believe that the two bills before the parliament should be considered and debated together. I support this bill being passed alongside the abortion law reform amendment bill.”

– Family Planning Association of Australia, 2016.

“It is unacceptable that women’s access to safe, affordable and locally provided abortion services is based upon where they happen to live in our State and in some cases, their ability to pay for private services and transport.”

– Health Consumers Queensland, 2016.

 

“Decriminalising the abortion law would provide a safe and supportive environment where the provider and the patient are comfortable without the element of pressure that they can be penalised for practicing what; in other states is routine.”

– maternal and fetal medicine (Centre for Advanced Prenatal Care) unit at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, 2016.

“Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) was established in 1993 and is a national network of Australian solicitors, barristers, academics, judicial officers and law students who practise and promote international human rights law in Australia. It is ALHR’s view that criminal provisions relating to termination of pregnancy should be repealed and that termination of pregnancy services should be safe, legal and accessible.”

– Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, 2016.

“In the last 12 months I have had three women referred to me for termination of their pregnancies directly from a hospital setting because the doctors caring for them were unwilling to provide the required terminations. I provide you with these specific and real case examples because I believe that these doctors failed in their duty of care to these women; and that failure was a direct result of their and the hospital boards’ concerns around the lawfulness of the procedure.”

– Dr Fiona Mack, GP and medication abortion provider, 2016.

“Sands Queensland has been providing support, information, education and advocacy for parents and families who experience the death of a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, newborn death or other pregnancy losses since the early 1980s. In that time we have assisted many bereaved parents in our community that have been faced with serious adverse diagnoses for their babies during pregnancy and have made agonising decisions to either continue or end the pregnancy. In considering this issue, we draw the Committee’s attention to sections 4 to 7 of the Abortion Law Reform Act (Vic) which, in our view, properly addresses these concerns in a way so as not to cause any further stressful impacts during what is already a very emotional time for all concerned (see also the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Act 2013 (Tas)). Most other State legislation goes part of the way to addressing these concerns but, in our view, the Victorian and Tasmania legislation best assists in not contributing to parent’s grief. If Queensland legislation is to be amended, we are of the opinion that, in the most part, it should take the form of the Victorian and Tasmanian laws. Sands Queensland recognises that the decision to continue or end a pregnancy after an adverse diagnosis is extremely difficult. Excessive legal restrictions and more complex approval process requirements have the potential to further compound and complicate parents’ grief. We believe this is a decision that parents should be able to make with the advice of their doctors.”

– SANDS Queensland, a miscarriage, stillbirth, and newborn death support organisation, 2016.

“Our position is that every child should be a wanted child, and that parents should have access to good quality information and services which enable them to make decisions as to the numbers and spacing of their children. We strongly endorse the proposal that abortion should be removed from the criminal law and be governed by the generality of laws and regulations oversighting the rest of medical practice.”

– National Foundation for Australian Women, 2016.

“I am a GP and specialist Sexual Health Physician with a Diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. I have been a practising doctor for over 20 years, for the majority of this time in rural, remote and regional Queensland. I have also worked in developing countries. My experience in obstetrics and gynaecology including pregnancy termination is extensive and I perform therapeutic terminations of pregnancy in Queensland. I am making this submission as an individual and not as a representative of any organisation. Current situation in Queensland The current law in Queensland, the 1899 Criminal Code, was written before pregnancy tests, ultrasound scans or antenatal testing existed and was designed to protect women from unscrupulous and dangerous procedures. Applying this law in the 21st century results in confusion and fear and actually causes harm to women seeking this necessary gynaecological procedure… I spend a large amount of time explaining legal jargon and interrogating women as to why their request for termination fits into the legal grey zone in which doctors in Queensland practice and dealing with their fears regarding prosecution as best I can. My time and expertise would be much more appropriately spent discussing and providing contraception.”

– Dr Jo MacLean, GP and abortion provider, 2016.

“As a GP, I have supported many women through the trials and tribulations of their fertile years. I have shared their joy in the addition of a new family member, and held their hand after the loss of a dearly wanted pregnancy. I have counselled them on family planning methods, and have seen firsthand that no contraceptive method is 100% effective. For some women who have made the considered and difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy, I have helped them to navigate our complex and inequitable system. The possibility of a 7 year jail term is the last thing that a woman needs in an already distressing situation. I am writing to express my support for the decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland and for Mr Pyne’s Abortion Law Reform (Women’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016.”

– Dr Paavi Davidson, GP, 2016.

 

“The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) is a national organisation comprising around 1800 individual members and representing over 40 professional groups concerned with the promotion of health at a population level. While the primary public health goal in the area of unintended pregnancy is prevention, even with good prevention strategies abortion services will always be needed. Abortion is a common part of many women’s reproductive experience with one quarter to one third of all Australian women having an abortion at some point in their life. In the Australian setting, abortion is an extremely safe procedure. Internationally, access to safe, legal abortion significantly reduces maternal mortality. Abortion should be regulated in the same way as other health procedures, without additional barriers or conditions. Regulation of abortion should be removed from Australian criminal law.”

– Public Health Association of Australia, 2016.

“UN Women National Committee Australia recommends that the Abortion Law Reform (Woman’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016 be passed, with the addition of referral in the case of conscientious objection and access zones around clinics to protect vulnerable women from coercion or threat, based on models in other Australian jurisdictions.

– UN Women Australia, 2016.

“True supports the decriminalisation of abortion. It will facilitate safe, essential medical treatment, resulting in improved health outcomes for Queensland women and their families. Moreover, it will remove barriers to the delivery of healthcare to women, especially in areas of greater social need.”

– True Relationships and Reproductive Health (formerly Family Planning Queensland), 2016.

“Abortion has remained in Queensland’s Criminal Code, in statutes dating from 1899 which allow for the prosecution of women accessing abortion or doctors providing it. This legislation causes fear and uncertainty and I believe women should have the right to make decisions about their own bodies and reproductive lives without fear of criminalization. Queensland women need access to legal and safe abortion; reliable, safe and affordable contraception; and a full range of information and support in order to make an informed decision about terminating or maintaining a pregnancy. I urge the Queensland government to respect the reproductive rights of women and to decriminalize abortion by removing sections 224, 225 & 226 from the Queensland Criminal Code.”

– Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence, 2016.

“The National Council of Women Queensland supports Abortion Law Reform Amendment Bill 2016 and its intention to remove Sections 224-226 from the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) and recommends that it be passed by the Parliament.”

– National Council of Women Queensland, 2016.

“In reality the criminalisation of women seeking abortion creates a two-tiered system of access; women with resources (including money), and information, living in South East Queensland, can access a termination of pregnancy relatively easily. Women experiencing disadvantage, including violence, face hurdles not only of cost and travel, but the added stigma of having to advocate with a confused public health system for their right to control their own reproductive health.”

– Ending Violence Against Women Queensland (EVAWQ), 2016.

“Abortion should be removed from sections 224, 225 and 226 of the Queensland Criminal Code, and put into legislation related to health services. It should not be considered a crime to terminate a pregnancy. Women, in consultation with their doctors, are capable of making the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Any laws regarding gestational limits on abortion should be made according to medical evidence. Women and their doctors should be making the decisions, not legislators or courts.”

– Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors’ Support Centre (BRISSC), 2016.

“In relation to reproductive health and reproductive safety, it is one of the principles on which we stand. As is apparent from our submission, we support the Health (Abortion Law Reform) Amendment Bill. I think it goes without saying that this would be coupled with the previous bill that would also decriminalise the current legislative regimes around people who perform abortions. We support the legislation amendment. Our members have a very strong view about the decriminalisation of people who perform these procedures, because our members are professionals. They come from not only legal fields but also health fields. We have nurses, doctors, social workers and a number of other members within our profession who have a strong view about this and we represent the majority of our members.

– Soroptimists International, 2016.

 

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