The Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 (QLD) (‘the Bill’) was introduced to the Queensland Parliament on 22 August 2018 by the Attorney General, Yvette D’Ath. On the same day, the Bill was referred to the Health, Communities, Disability Services and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Committee (‘the Committee’) for consideration, with its final report released on 5 October 2018.
The objective of the Bill is to enable reasonable and safe access for women to terminations of pregnancy and to regulate the conduct of registered health practitioners in relation to terminations. Under the proposed legislation, termination of pregnancies is to be treated as a health issue, rather than a criminal matter .
Currently, abortions and assistance in abortions are illegal under the Queensland Criminal Code (‘the Code’), under sections 224 to 226. However, under section 282, the Code does provide that abortions are legal where it is medically necessary to prevent danger to the mother’s life, physical or mental health. However, this has created uncertainty and the possibility of prosecution impedes the provision of safe, accessible and timely services.
The Bill modernises and clarifies the law for terminations based on recommendations of the Queensland Law Reform Commission Report Review of Termination of Pregnancy Laws (‘the QLRC Report’), released in June 2018.
In summary, under the Bill:
The Bill was introduced and referred to the Committee on 22 August 2018 to consider:
The report explores current Queensland law in regards to terminations, global trends and statistics, and reviews in detail submissions and concerns regarding the Bill. Submissions were accepted by the Committee from the 22 August to the 5 September, with more than 5,000 submissions being received. The Committee also received a public briefing about the Bill from the Department of Health and the Attorney-General on 24 August.
In summary, the Committee reported that:
“The committee’s views at the conclusion of this inquiry align with the statements made by the QLRC – that the underlying principle of the Bill is that termination of pregnancy should be treated as a health issue between a woman and her treating doctor, not as a criminal matter … [and as] outlined in the explanatory notes, while the Bill is specific to Queensland and is not uniform with or complementary to legislation of the Commonwealth, the QLRC sought to achieve reasonable consistency with reforms relating to termination of pregnancy made elsewhere in Australia.”
The report’s two final recommendations are:
The committee recommends the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 be passed.
The committee recommends that, in light of the sensitive subject matter and the history of consideration of termination of pregnancy and similar matters, the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 be subject to a personal vote, otherwise known as a conscience vote, by Members in accordance with section 107 of the Standing Rules and Orders.”
Stakeholders such as the Queensland branch of the Australian Medical Association, Queensland Nurses Union and the Children by Choice women’s rights group applaud the proposed changes and back the move to treat terminations as a matter of health. The introduction of safe access zones was also praised and supported by research undertaken by Monash University Castan Centre of Human Rights Law, with harassment and footpath counselling being major causes of distress to both women seeking terminations and staff members.
However, pro-life groups such as Australian Christian Lobby Queensland have expressed concerns to the new laws. Director Wendy Francis argues that:
“[T] he 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.”
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Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 (QLD) – Bill, Committee Report and other supporting documents available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
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