Get the facts: Queenslanders support decriminalisation

Who supports legal abortion? Queenslanders do.

Reliable opinion polling carried out over the past 20 years shows the majority of Queenslanders (and Australians) support the legal right to choose abortion.

The percentage [of Australians] that believes abortion should be banned has remained remarkably stable of a 41-year time frame, at approximately 5% of the population.[1]

The report of the Victorian Law Reform Commission published in 2008, Law of Abortion, dedicates an entire chapter to community attitudes to abortion, and includes an academic examination of five major opinion polls on abortion for methodology, question design, and reliability. Their analysis found that two academic surveys, the Australian Election Study (AES) and the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (AuSSA):

“present the strongest estimates of what Australians think about abortion. 

The AuSSA waves from 2003 and 2005 suggest that approximately 80% of Australians support a woman’s right to choose…fewer than one in 20 respondents to the AES said that abortion should not be allowed under any circumstances.” .[3]

The 2003 AuSSA also found that religious belief and support for legal abortion are not mutually exclusive, with 77% of those who identify as religious also supporting a woman’s right to choose.[4]

While anti-abortion campaigners are loud and well organised, they are out of step with the rest of the community. It is a mistake to view their loudness and organisational ability as a reflection of how the rest of the community will vote on the issue of abortion.[2]

  • Wayne Berry, member of the Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly 1989-2008.

A survey conducted by Auspoll in 2009 of over 1000 Queenslanders found that 79% of voters wanted the law changed so abortion is no longer a crime.[5]

A review of over 20 years of data on attitudes to abortion published in October 2009 found that:

[M]ore than half the electorate in Australia and in Queensland support freedom of choice, and a further third support the availability of abortion in special circumstances… As far as attitudes are concerned, Queensland is no different from the rest of Australia. [6]

In September 2015, a poll of New South Wales voters commissioned by Greens MLC Dr Mehreen Faruqi found 76% of respondents were unaware abortion was in the NSW Crimes Act, and that 73% supported its removal from the Act so it would no longer be criminalised.[7]

A poll of 1200 Queenslanders commissioned by national campaign group Fair Agenda (an #itsnot1899 campaign supporter) in February 2017 found that 82% agreed it should be legal for a woman, in consultation with a medical professional, to terminate her pregnancy. [8]

 

Do people vote for pro-choice politicians?

The polling commissioned by Fair Agenda in February 2017 found that 60% of Queenslanders would be less likely to vote for an MP who opposed decriminalisation. [7] The majority of voters across almost all parties were of this position, including 48% of LNP voters, 56% of One Nation voters, 68% of Labor voters and 77% of Greens voters.

When pro-choice ALP member for Aspley Bonny Barry lost her seat at the 2009 Queensland election, it was claimed by the anti-choice lobby that it was due to the electorate being informed of her intention to introduce a bill to decriminalise abortion. A group who later emerged calling themselves Voters for Life claimed that their “humble education campaign” consisting of leafleting the Aspley electorate “had contributed to her defeat”.[9]

In reality, the swing against Bonny Barry in Aspley was due to a campaign against the State Government’s plan to close a nearby children’s hospital, and surrounding seats also suffered similar swings due to the same issue. Election analyst Antony Green, in his examination of Aspley in the lead up to the election stated that

The Bligh government is planning to close the Royal Children’s Hospital at Herston on the northern edge of the Brisbane CBD and replace with a new facility in South Brisbane. This has been raising ire on Brisbane’s northside, anger not placated by a promise to upgrade pediatric facilites at Prince Charles Hospital just outside the electorate in Chermside. The LNP is promising to upgrade both the southside facility and the Royal Children’s Hospital…A part of Brisbane that was Liberal held until the 2001 debacle and on past election results, [Aspley is] one of the first seats that should return to the non-Labor fold if there is any swing against the Bligh government.[10]

Statewide, the ALP suffered a 4.7% swing against them on polling day.

While the swing against Barry was larger, at 7%, it was not disproportionate to the swings suffered by other sitting Labor MPs on Brisbane’s northside, and indeed was smaller than many whose electorates were also affected by the Children’s Hospital debate.

Ferny Grove (-7.1%), Brisbane Central (-7.7%), and Everton (-8.4%) all suffered bigger negative swings than Aspley, while Stafford (-5.9%) and Nudgee (-5.4%) also experienced negative swings larger than the statewide average.[11]

Nationally

Women’s Health Victoria recently analysed over 25 years of Australian election data to ascertain the effect on voting patterns when candidate’s views on abortion were known to the electorate. They found that:

Despite anti-choice activity, the last 25+ years demonstrate that pro-choice candidates do not suffer at the ballot box. In fact, their stance on a woman’s right to choose is rewarded by the electorate.[12]

 

References:

[1] Abortion Law Reform (Woman’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016 and Inquiry into laws governing termination of pregnancy in Queensland. Report No 24, 55th Parliament. Health, Communities, Disability Services, and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee. Brisbane: August 2016, p49. Available online at https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-committees/committees/HCDSDFVPC/inquiries/past-inquiries/AbortionLR-WRC-AB2016.

[2] Wayne Berry, MLA from Australian Capital Territory. Quoted in H Wiseman ‘Law and Disorder’ Australian Doctor, 10 November 2006, pg 21-25.

[3] Available through the Commission’s website at http://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au/projects/abortion/law-abortion-final-report-pdf.

[4] K Betts “Attitudes to Abortion in Australia: 1972 to 2003” People and Place 22, 2004. Available online at http://tapri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/v12n4_3betts.pdf

[5] Queensland voters’ attitudes towards abortion Report prepared by Auspoll, May 2009. Polling commissioned by Children by Choice.

[6]  K Betts “Attitudes to Abortion: Queensland and Australia in the 21st Century” People and Place vol 17, 2009.

[7] Polling available on Dr Faruqi’s website at http://www.mehreenfaruqi.org.au/first-ever-polling-of-abortion-issues-in-nsw-shows-overwhelming-support-for-abortion-law-reform-and-exclusion-zones-across-political-party-affiliation/

[8] Queensland abortion law reform poll; February 2017. Polling and report carried out by Essential Media, and commissioned by Fair Agenda. Report available in full at http://www.fairagenda.org/blog_abortion_polling.

[9] P Dobbyn ‘Swing to Life’ The Catholic Leader 31 October 2010.

[10] ABC Elections Queensland 2009, analysis available online at http://www.abc.net.au/elections/qld/2009/guide/aspl.htm.

[11] Seat by seat analysis by Antony Green available on the ABC Elections website, at http://www.abc.net.au/elections/qld/2009/guide/electorateindex.htm.

[12] The Myth: Politicians suffer at the ballot box if they are pro-choice in relation to women’s access to termination of pregnancy servicesInformation compiled by Victorian Women’s Health Services, September 2010. Available online at http://whv.org.au/publications-resources/publications-resources-by-topic/post/the-myth-politicians-suffer-at-the-ballot-box-if-they-are-pro-choice-in-relation-to-women-s-access-to-termination-of-pregnancy-services/

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