By Skyler Lee
Australia could become the next pro-life battleground as the government, with the help of the Queensland Law Reform Commission decides whether or not abortion should be decriminalized.
Queensland, Australia currently considers abortion a crime under the Criminal Code Act of 1899. According to the law, abortion is only legal when it is believed by a doctor that pregnancy is a serious danger to the woman’s physical and/or mental health. Abortion for any other reason is considered unlawful, and anyone who performs an abortion outside the single exception can be sentenced to up to 14 years in jail while any woman who unlawfully has an abortion can be sentenced to up to seven years.
The Queensland Law Reform Commission (QLRC) was appointed to investigate if abortion should be decriminalized in the state and is expected to have handed down a report to the State Attorney General by the end of June.
Last year, two bills were introduced to decriminalize abortion but were withdrawn after failing to secure liberal support. The State Government then appointed the QLRC to investigate how to “modernize” abortion laws and requested it include draft legislation based on its recommendations. After receiving the report, the Queensland government has 14 sitting days before it is compelled to table the report for later in the year.
“Women can’t wait anymore,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, voicing her support for changing the law. “They’ve waited 119 years to be able to access healthcare services that people in other first world countries and states in Australia can access very easily.”
Although abortion supporters say the decriminalization of abortion will bring Queensland in line with other first world countries, pro-life advocates are not going down without a fight.
In fact, evangelical Christians have recently ramped up their sidewalk counseling efforts outside of abortion facilities in response to the efforts to change the law, and over 11,000 Queensland residents have signed the latest parliamentary petition against the liberalization of abortion in the state. The petition rejects the idea abortion helps women and calls on the government to create better options for women in need of support. The current petition follows two others of its kind, collecting a combined total of more than 67,000 signatures.
Additionally, a Galaxy poll conducted earlier this year shows many residents are still opposed to abortion, with 62% of those polled agreeing preborn children at 23 weeks are people with rights, 76% agreeing abortion harms a woman’s health, 60% opposing mid-term abortions past 13 weeks, and 73% opposing abortions after 23 weeks.
The Queensland Australian Christian Lobby director Wendy Francis recently told ABC.net although an estimated 14,000 abortions still take place annually despite abortion being illegal, she does not want to see abortion decriminalized.
“I don’t want to see any woman in jail, although that’s never happened. There has never been a woman prosecuted for having an abortion. But I think the value of keeping it within the criminal code is that it does indicate that this is a serious procedure, and it’s not simply the same as having your appendix out. It’s something that a lot of women do struggle with and it’s not an easy decision,” Francis explained.
She also showed support for and hope that the QLRC offers better access to life-affirming alternatives to abortion — such as adoption.
“I believe that we can have a regard to the human rights of the unborn child as well as for women. Many women I have spoken to who have an abortion say ‘I didn’t think I had any options.’ So we want to make sure women have an informed choice and are actually assisted by the Government to make a different choice if that is what they really want,” Francis stated.
Although, the QLRC has handed the report on abortion to the government, the report is not expected to be made public immediately and is certainly something for which pro-life advocates should keep an eye out.