Letter to Queensland State Parliamentarians regarding proposal to amend the law in relation to abortion

Letter to Queensland State Parliamentarians regarding proposal to amend the law in relation to abortion

I write to you and to all Queensland parliamentarians to express my opposition to Labor’s draft bill to substantially liberalise abortion in Queensland, and I ask that you vote in the Parliament to defeat this proposal. 

My objections to the policy are:

The proposal will allow abortion ‘on demand’, which means without the need for explanation, justification or medical need, up to 22 weeks’ gestation. For pregnancies after 22 weeks, the sign-off of two doctors will be required, only one of which needs to see the mother in person, to determine the mother’s “physical, psychological, or social” interests. One can only imagine what constitutes a situation adverse to one’s ‘social’ interests. It’s certainly not something within the expertise of doctors, and is – I expect by design – highly flexible, subjective and without a connection to a mother’s health. 

It enables abortion for the purposes of sex-selection. That smacks of a repugnant treatment of children as accessories for adults, rather than as lives of inherent value.

No protections for the child are proposed – not even pain relief for the child being terminated, despite the abundance of evidence that late-term abortions are excruciating for the child.

The establishment of a 150-metre exclusion zone around abortion clinics in which “prohibited conduct” is—as the term suggests—prohibited, prevents benign actions such as respectful conversations and silent prayer. This is an unacceptable attack on freedom of speech, religion and association.

While it retains a doctor’s ordinary right to refuse to perform an abortion, they are nevertheless obliged to refer a patient to another practitioner who is willing to do so. Furthermore, in what is termed an “emergency”, a doctor can be compelled to perform such a procedure despite their conscientious objection. This has the potential to disproportionately prejudice the conscientious rights of doctors in rural and regional areas. Doctors who refuse to become ‘merchants of death’ have in other jurisdictions been referred for disciplinary action by their profession.

There is no cooling-off period for a woman or couple that seeks an abortion. It does not require counselling before making a decision of this nature, despite the substantial body of evidence that demonstrates that serious psychological harm is inflicted by abortion upon mothers and fathers.

It provides no protections against abortion coercion: a manifestation of domestic violence in which a woman is forced to terminate a pregnancy by an abusive family member. Domestic violence in unacceptable in other contexts – why not in this one?

There is no attempt to provide a real, informed choice to women: full information about the range of options available, time and counselling to support that choice, support or education to help to raise a child even in unplanned circumstances, or support to deliver a child for adoption to one of the thousands of Australian families seeking to adopt in circumstances of their own infertility.

It invocates human rights law in its support: the very same body of human rights law which establishes the fundamental human right to life (see Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) is now being relied upon to justify the death of approximately 14,000 babies in Queensland every year. There is something repugnant about this selective reliance upon human rights. 

Finally, even a young adult has the moral agency required to make decisions for themselves. Some of those decisions, such as the decision to engage in sexual activity, or the decision not to use any of the readily available and inexpensive methods of contraception, have real and lasting consequences. It is incongruent for us to defend an adult’s right to avoid the obvious consequences of their voluntary choices at the expense of the right of another human without such agency to live.­

The public commentary in favour of this policy has focussed on the need for decriminalisation.  That is a mere distraction, and a smokescreen for the remainder of these extreme proposals.  I note that criminal prosecutions are few and unlikely to succeed.  The last two prosecutions in Queensland were in 2009 and 1985, and both led to acquittals.  There is no evidence that there is a problem in Queensland of women being prosecuted for this practice. 

A 2018 poll (YouGovGalaxy, 6-8 February 2018, sample of 1,001 Queensland voters) indicated that 76 per cent of Queenslanders believe that abortion can harm the physical and/or mental health of women, and 60 per cent of Queenslanders would not allow abortion after 13 weeks.  This indicates that the policy is out of step with the convictions of Queenslanders. 

I urge you to oppose this bill. 

Yours sincerely

Amanda Stoker

Senator for Queensland