Queensland abortion laws have been described as ‘out of date’ by two Queensland experts in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at James Cook University, Caroline De Costa said many women are participating in ‘abortion tourism’ where they travel interstate or overseas to legally abort their baby.
“What we want is to simply bring the law in line with what is actual practice,” she said.
“It’s not so much that there isn’t abortion services provided, it’s the fact that a woman is in a difficult legal position.”
Professor De Costa said the number of women sent interstate last year by organisation Children by Choice was 77 but as they are not the only organisation sending women, the figure is much higher.
Abortion is currently illegal in Queensland unless a woman’s physical and/or mental health is proven to be in jeopardy if the pregnancy were to go ahead.
It is also illegal in New South Wales but is legal to 24 weeks in Victoria, 20 weeks in Western Australia, 14 weeks in the Northern Territory and 16 weeks in Tasmania.
Professor De Costa said current laws surrounding abortion date back to the 19th century and need to be reassessed.
“Medical practices have evolved enormously in that time as has the ability to make diagnosis of severe foetal abnormalities and this is something that is not covered by the law now so abortion is still in the criminal code,” she said.
“It puts what is actually a health procedure for women into the criminal code and it stigmatises it and makes it more difficult for women to accept it, more difficult to talk about it, more difficult for doctors to feel able to provide abortion or to refer women for abortion or to be involved with abortion.”
State Director of Cherish Life Queensland, Teresa Martin said it’s ‘pretty sad’ that the death of a woman’s baby is considered the best option by society if they are likely to be born with a disability.
“Women who might have a child that has already been born with a deformity or that’s been hit by a car and becomes disabled, we don’t say to them ‘kill your child’,” she said.
“Why are we screaming for babies in the womb, who might be diagnosed with similar disabilities, to be killed?”
Ms Martin said Professor De Costa has forgotten there are many unwanted abortions and that there is no such thing as an unwanted baby.
“There are many childless couples who would dearly love a baby, any baby, even a disabled baby but there are girls who are pressured into abortion by boyfriends, by parents, by friends and by society,” she said.
“The unwritten rule is if you’re not expecting a baby, get rid of it, but why aren’t we looking at babies as a beautiful, unexpected, pleasant surprise? Why are they always viewed as something so very negative?”