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Laura found out she was pregnant in December.

Laura found out she was pregnant in December.

Liz Marmo/Supplied

“I have a three-year-old son who I have raised essentially as a single parent, and I wasn’t in a position to be a single parent to another child,” the 26-year-old, who lives in Albury on the NSW-Victoria border, told BuzzFeed News.

“I was in the process of getting ready to leave the relationship and the pregnancy didn’t change that.”

There is only one abortion provider in Albury, a fertility clinic that is only open on Thursdays.

Each Thursday morning anti-abortion protesters gather outside with signs and plastic foetus dolls. The dolls are handed to women coming in to the clinic in a bid to dissuade them from having an abortion.

One of the regular picketers also sprays “holy water” along the footpath outside the clinic.

One of the regular picketers also sprays “holy water” along the footpath outside the clinic.

Liz Marmo/Supplied

Laura knew she wanted a surgical abortion.

“Termination was definitely the only option because I am a very maternal person and I knew that if I went down the adoption route I would keep the child and I am not in a position to do that.”

But a member of Laura’s extended family is one of the regular protesters outside the clinic.

“I knew I couldn’t go there when a relative of mine was going to be standing out the front of the clinic hassling me not to go in,” she said.

“I knew I couldn’t face that.”

Laura feared the man would tell other people in her extended family and friends that she had visited the centre.

Laura feared the man would tell other people in her extended family and friends that she had visited the centre.

We Need A Bigot Exclusion Zone Right Here Right Now/Facebook

“No one is stopping [the protesters] from telling other people who they saw there that day, and at the time I was really concerned with people knowing that I was making that decision,” she said.

“I felt like my privacy would be taken away from me.”

Because Laura was still at an early enough stage of her pregnancy, she was able to opt for a medical abortion instead. Last month she went to the GP to get abortion drug RU486.

“Now that I have had a medical [abortion] I would have definitely preferred to go the surgical route, because you have to see it happen and I didn’t want that.”

Abortion is still a crime for women and doctors in NSW and is only lawful if a doctor believes a woman’s physical and/or mental health are in serious danger. Social and economic factors may also be taken into account.

Laura has always been pro-choice but said the experience gave her a “different perspective” on the barriers women in NSW face when making decisions about their own bodies.

“It seemed really unfair to me because [the clinic] should be a safe place for women,” she said.

“No one should be able to take that right away from you.”

A bill to decriminalise abortion and enact 150 metre exclusion or “safe access” zones around abortion providers to protect patients against “ongoing harassment, abuse and intimidation” was introduced to NSW parliament by Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi in August.

NSW Labor MP Penny Sharpe has also initiated a private member’s bill for safe access zones.

Laura supports the move to decriminalise abortion but believes safe access zones don’t go far enough, and that religious protesters should be banned from clinics altogether.

Laura supports the move to decriminalise abortion but believes safe access zones don't go far enough, and that religious protesters should be banned from clinics altogether.

Liz Marmo/Supplied

“Every woman who faces the same choice has to be handed plastic [foetal] dolls and pamphlets,” she said.

“I don’t think women go in there making a decision lightly and these people are making what is a hard decision even harder.”

About 500 metres south of the clinic, across the NSW border into Victoria, women seeking abortions and staff at fertility clinics no longer have to navigate through protesters to the front door.

In 2015 Victoria followed Tasmania and the ACT in passing legislation to establish safe access zones.

Source: Buzzfeed

https://www.buzzfeed.com/ginarushton/this-woman-couldnt-go-to-a-clinic-for-an-abortion-because-he?utm_term=.ohjn2P5LG#.haEW8QqbM

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich

Norway has joined an international initiative to raise millions of dollars to replace shortfalls left by U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on U.S.-funded groups worldwide providing information on abortion.

In January, the Netherlands started a global fund to help women access abortion services, saying Trump’s “global gag rule” meant a funding gap of $600 million over the next four years, and has pledged $10 million to the initiative to replace that.

Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Canada and Cape Verde have all also lent their support.

“The government is increasing its support for family planning and safe abortion by 85 million Norwegian crowns ($10 million) compared with 2016,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

“At a time when this agenda has come under pressure, a joint effort is particularly important,” she said in a statement.

Last month, Trump reinstated a policy requiring overseas organizations that receive U.S. family-planning funds to certify they do not perform abortions or provide abortion advice as a method of family planning.

Source: Reuters

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-norway-abortion-idUSKBN15Z1KL?il=0

Norma McCorvey did not live to see the case overturned. But today’s abortion access may more closely resemble the country of her youth than she imagined

20-feb-17

In 1998, Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in the Roe v Wade supreme court decision, testified before a group of senators about the case fought in her name 25 years earlier. “I am dedicated,” she said, “to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name.”

McCorvey did become an activist against abortion rights, although she wouldn’t live to see Roe, which in 1973 established a right to abortion, overturned. She died on Saturday in Katy, Texas, at the age of 69.

Knowing the end was near, McCorvey gave her friends and fellow activists a mission the day before she died, according to her friend Janet Morana. “She wanted to tell everyone to continue the fight,” said Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life.

But while McCorvey died in a country still shaped by the case that bears her pseudonym, the practical realities of abortion access may more closely resemble the country of her youth than she imagined.

Anti-abortion activists began to chip away at Roe v Wade almost as soon as the supreme court handed the decision down. In 1976, Congress began prohibiting poor women from using Medicaid to cover abortions. Conservative state lawmakers have unleashed a tidal wave of abortion restrictions, such as an Ohio law signed in December, that make the procedure more difficult to obtain. The most effective of these laws forced abortion clinics to close down. Since 2011, abortion clinics have closed at a record pace of more than 30 clinics per year.

McCorvey wasn’t a soldier in the early battles. In the 1980s, she revealed her identity publicly and spent time volunteering in a Dallas abortion clinic and taking part in abortion rights rallies. It wasn’t until 1995, when she converted to evangelical Christianity – later, to Catholicism – that she began to join activists who wanted abortion to be abolished.

For the most part, she was active with religious groups and ordinary people who wanted to see abortion outlawed as quickly as possible. Occasionally, she lent her name to legal efforts that challenged Roe head-on. In 1997, she wrote a friend-of-the-court brief in a long-shot case claiming Roe had led to untold numbers of coerced abortions, and must be overturned.

The most successful contingent of the anti-abortion movement had long since left those tactics behind. In 1984, at a conference sponsored by Americans United for Life, a participant proposed what would become the movement’s most powerful weapon against Roe: laws that allowed the courts to chisel away at its doctrine.

It is a strategy that has proved highly effective. Activists have sufficiently narrowed Roe so that states can require women seeking an abortion to attend anti-abortion counseling; require minors seeking an abortion to receive the permission of one or both parents; require women to wait 24 hours or more before receiving an abortion; extensively regulate abortion after 20 weeks; and block public funding for abortion.

All the while, fewer women have found they needed abortions. This year, US researchers announced that the proportion of pregnancies that ended in abortion had reached its lowest point since the supreme court decided Roe v Wade. The decline was largely due not to new abortion restrictions, they believed – with the exception of unconstitutional laws that forced clinics to close – but to more effective and widely available methods of contraception.

Anti-abortion activists have credited the low abortion rate to the triumph of their tactics and rhetoric, and have largely hailed the Republican takeover of Congress and the White House. The party has historically aided their fight against abortion rights, and its leaders have announced plans to gut widespread access to contraception and place new restrictions on abortion.

All of this, of course, is achieved with an eye toward overturning Roe v Wade. Donald Trump, in his election-season efforts to win the support of anti-abortion groups, promised to appoint judges to the supreme court who would be open to overturning the decision. Many legal experts are skeptical, however, given the amount of precedent that now exists to protect abortion rights, that overturning Roe v Wade is even possible.

With this in mind, anti-abortion campaigners have noted the difference between overturning Roe v Wade and making it as though Roe v Wade had never happened. Activist groups and conservative lawmakers have shown that they can achieve one without the other.

Twenty-one states have laws allowing a parent to all but prevent minors from having abortions. The ban on using Medicaid to cover abortion has foreclosed the option of abortion to at least 1 million women. The closure of half of Texas’ abortion clinics, under a law that was later ruled unconstitutional, caused a 50% drop in abortions in areas where the distance to the nearest clinics suddenly increased by more than 100 miles.

Owing to a record number of clinic closures, thousands of women each year travel great distances for abortions and even cross state lines. An unknown number of women have attempted to perform their own abortions, including some who have tried to do so with sharp objects. The difficulties begin to recall a time before abortion was legal in all 50 states.

Two years ago, one abortion provider reflected on the changes, saying: “Sometimes, I feel like I’ve gone back 40-some years.”

Source: The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/20/roe-v-wade-norma-mccorvey-death-abortion-rights

19-feb-17

Norma McCorvey, the anonymous plaintiff known as Jane Roe in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe vs. Wade ruling legalising abortion, died on Saturday at the age of 69, a journalist close to McCorvey said.

McCorvey died on Saturday morning of heart failure at an assisted living home in Katy, Texas, Joshua Prager, a journalist who is writing a book about the decision, said in an email.

Her lawsuit, filed under the pseudonym Jane Roe, resulted in the court’s 1973 decision that established a woman’s right to an abortion.

A reluctant hero of the abortion-rights movement, McCorvey put her courtroom pseudonym fully behind her in the 1980s when she lent her name to supporters of women’s rights. She did an about-face, however, and later spoke out on behalf of abortion foes as a born-again Christian.

The 1973 ruling has been the focus of a divisive political, legal and moral debate that has raged for decades in the United States. It established that the U.S. Constitution protects the right of a woman to have an abortion until the point of viability.

The Supreme Court defined that as when the foetus “has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb,” generally at about 24 weeks into pregnancy. The court also recognised a right to abortion after viability if necessary to protect the woman’s life or health.

Efforts to overturn the decision are heating up with the election of Donald Trump as president and a conservative Congress. Trump has said abortion should be largely banned and also has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood, a women’s healthcare provider that draws the ire of many Republicans because it provides abortions.

If the Supreme Court were to overrule Roe v. Wade, the procedure would remain legal only where state laws allow it.

Source: The Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/19/norma-mccorvey-plaintiff-roe-v-wade-abortion-ruling-dies-69/

18-feb-2017

Republican Oklahoma lawmaker who defended his description of pregnant women as “hosts” won approval on Tuesday for his bill that would require women seeking an abortion to first receive written consent from the father.

The state House Public Health Committee voted 5-2 in favour of the bill by Rep. Justin Humphrey, despite Mr Humphrey’s own concession that it might be unconstitutional. It now proceeds to the full House, where it’s likely to pass if granted a hearing.

“The thing I wanted to spark in a debate is that fathers have a role. Exactly where that role is, I’m not sure,” said Mr Humphrey. “I’m proud that I’ve gotten a chance to start the conversation.”

The bill would require women seeking an abortion to provide the name of the father and would prohibit her from going through with it without his written informed consent. It also would allow the father to demand that a paternity test be performed and would provide exceptions in cases where the woman is the victim of rape or incest or if the pregnancy would endanger her life.

Mr Humphrey acknowledged the bill might not pass constitutional muster, but said he wanted to ensure that fathers had a role in the abortion process.

Tamya Cox, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the US Supreme Court already ruled against requirements to notify the father in a 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

“Courts have said that states cannot create undue burdens and create unnecessary obstacles when it comes to a woman’s right to access abortion,” Ms Cox said. “To waste taxpayer dollars on bills like this does not represent what’s best for Oklahomans.”

Ms Cox also lambasted Mr Humphrey for referring to women as “hosts,” a comment she said was inflammatory and unacceptable but which Mr Humphrey defended again on Tuesday.

“I think I used the proper verbiage. When I used the term host, it’s not meant to degrade women,” Mr Humphrey said. “If there’s better verbiage out there, I will gladly use better verbiage. I just couldn’t find it.”

I think I used the proper verbiage. When I used the term host, it’s not meant to degrade women. If there’s better verbiage out there, I will gladly use better verbiage. I just couldn’t find it.Justin Humphrey

The same committee on Tuesday also approved a separate measure prohibiting abortions based on the diagnosis of a fetal abnormality or Down syndrome.

Oklahoma’s Republican-led Legislature has passed some of the country’s most far-reaching anti-abortion legislation, but at least five of the proposals have been tossed by the courts in the last six years. Three additional bills remain tied up in court.

At least 11 anti-abortion bills have been introduced this session, including one that classifies the procedure as first-degree murder, but it’s unlikely many of those will reach the governor’s desk. The Legislature last year approved a bill to make it a felony punishable by up to three years in prison for anyone who performs an abortion, but Republican Governor Mary Fallin vetoed it, saying it was clearly unconstitutional.

Source: The Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/15/oklahoma-backs-bill-requiring-partners-consent-abortions-lawmaker/

17-feb-17

Letters from Women Pleading for Abortion, Sent in 1917, Mirror Emails Sent Today

In the early 1900s, desperate American women wrote letters to the founder of Planned Parenthood begging for help with unwanted pregnancies. A century later, they’re sending eerily similar messages to an international abortion-by-mail service.

“I’m in the family way again, and I’m nearly crazy, for when my husband finds out that I’m going to have another baby, he will beat the life out of me… Please write to me and help me.”

“I am in need of help desperately. I am pregnant and cannot have this baby. My husband is very abusive and did it on purpose because I want to leave. I need help… Please help me.”

Both of these pleas come from American women—both of them pregnant against their will, with few options, and fearing for their lives and safety. The first was written in 1917 and published in Birth Control Review, a twentieth-century magazine devoted to extolling the virtues of contraception. The second was written almost a full century later. It’s one of countless frantic emails sent by American women to Women on Web, an abortion-by-mail service located in the Netherlands.

On the surface, the circumstances surrounding these letters seem starkly different: In 1917, abortion and contraception were both illegal, and even sharing information about how to prevent pregnancy was considered a criminal act. In the 100 years that have passed since then, the feminist movement has made huge strides towards sexual and reproductive liberty; birth control was fully legalized in 1972, and abortion followed suit in 1973.

But conservative politicians have worked tirelessly to attack and undermine these rights in recent years—passing legislation that shuttered hundreds of abortion providers throughout the South and Midwest, preventing low-income women from being able to afford abortion care, attempting to make contraception as expensive as possible, and waging constant legislative battle on Planned Parenthood. As a result, the right to choose is a right in name only for many women throughout the US, poor women and women of color in particular.

 Birth Control Review, published between 1917 and 1940, was edited by Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Though she was openly opposed to abortion, Sanger would regularly print heart-wrenching correspondences from women suffering from unintended and unwanted pregnancies who thought she might be able to help them. Her goal in doing publishing these—which she referred to using epithets like “Letters from Harassed Mothers” and “Letters Showing the Dilemma Faced by Many Mothers”—was to highlight the moral imperative of legalizing birth control, which, she argued, could prevent such pregnancies and decrease the number of illegal abortions in the country.

An editorial cartoon published in Birth Control Review in the 1920s

A century later, Women on Web receives the same type of correspondence—messages from women struggling with unwanted pregnancies, terrified at their lack of options—on a daily basis. The organization, which was founded in 2006, sends the abortion pill to women in countries where abortion is illegal and advocates for its safe use at home.

Women on Web has provided Broadly with several of the emails they’ve recently received from American women. The similarities between these and the letters published in Birth Control Review are striking: The women in both groups often go into great lengths describing how dire their situations are, and they typically outline their reasons for needing abortion in detail. Though the forces causing their distress have changed, the tone of the letters has remained fairly constant through the years, suffused with the desperate pragmatism of someone for whom the last resort is the only option.

As Leslie Regan argues in When Abortion Was a Crime, a landmark survey of the history of abortion law in the US, for the vast majority of the women writing into Birth Control Review, “abortion was not associated with personal freedom, but with family needs.” The same, generally, can be said of the women contacting Women on Web in recent years. Though the decision to terminate a pregnancy is typically framed as a choice, it is often one born of several constraints: Nearly half of abortion patients are below the federal poverty level, and 59 percent have had at least one previous birth.

One woman described herself in an email to Women on Web as 24 years old, “a single mother with three children.” Her ex-husband had left her, she wrote, and he refused to pay child support. “I am almost seven weeks pregnant… I need help, and I am feeling very desperate,” she continued. “I want desperately to be a good mother to the children I already have. I need an abortion. Please help me.”

I want desperately to be a good mother to the children I already have. I need an abortion. Please help me.

During the first half of the 1900s, women contacted Sanger with similar concerns; many wondered how they’d be able to afford to feed more children and worried that their existing family members would suffer if they were forced to carry another pregnancy to term. “I would like to see my children have some education, but if we get some more it will be impossible,” wrote one woman, in a letter printed in 1918. Another woman, writing in 1925, said she had five children. The youngest of these was just a few months old, and the mother was still recovering from that delivery.

 She was pregnant again, she confessed, and frightened: “I never dreamed of getting that way again. I am 41 years old.”

She added that her husband had gone to the doctor looking for a way to end her pregnancy to no avail, and she nervously asked whether there was anything she could do. “I don’t do this to be mean. No mother loves her babies any more than I do,” she said. “I don’t believe in doing things like [getting an abortion], but in all conditions I honestly think it is best for my four-month-old baby… Sometimes I think I will end it all, and try not to on account of my baby and little girl and the rest of my four children.”

Unlike the women who wrote to Birth Control Review in the 1900s, those contacting Women on Web today do technically have the right to terminate their pregnancies safely and legally—they just cannot afford to do so because of several interlocking obstacles constructed by the political arm of the anti-abortion movement. The mother of three who contacted the organization, for instance, wrote that she lives in Ohio, which has some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the country. Half of the clinics in the state have been forced to close their doors since 2011, and any woman seeking an abortion must go in person to the provider, then return home for 24 hours to reflect on her decision before getting the actual procedure.

Coupled, these factors made the procedure prohibitively expensive for the Ohio woman: “To get an abortion I would have to drive two-and-a-half hours from my house, pay $388 (that is after the help from the abortion fund for people with low income), and then wait 24 hours and then return to the clinic (two-and-a-half hours from my house),” she said. “There is absolutely no way I can afford to do this.”

For many of the women contacting Women on Web, cost is a barrier; another common concern is arranging for childcare. “I’m a single parent. I just lost my job then I found out I’m pregnant. I can’t afford it at the moment,” wrote one woman. “I don’t even have source of income. Please help me!!” Another said that she works full-time but lacks medical insurance, adding, “I won’t be able to afford a visit to the doctor, and I won’t have time to go see a doctor between taking care of my daughter and working.”

Pro-choice protesters in front of the Supreme Court in 2016. Photo via Wikipedia

For those who live in one of the 14 states with mandatory waiting periods and in-person counseling sessions, the most pressing issue is frequently related to the cost of traveling long distances to reach a clinic and paying for lodging. “I’m in the US but in my state it’s nearly impossible. The governor passed a law and now our state has barely any abortion clinics open, and the closest one to me is almost 300 miles away,” one woman wrote. “And, to get the abortion, it is done over two weeks in three to four [separate] appointments. I was just wondering if there was any way we could work something out and you could send me the pill. Please!!”

 Another woman, living in Michigan, wrote that she felt “alone and helpless.” She is disabled, she added, “only able to walk short distances” and surviving off disability payments; over a dozen abortion clinics in the state have closed in the past few years, and she worried about her ability to drive several hours to reach the nearest provider.

“Even if I could make the long drive downstate, I’d never be able to afford to stay somewhere to comply with Michigan’s 24-hour consent law,” she added. “Is there any way your organization can help? Is there any advice you may have for me? I’m feeling desperate and alone, and I know that time is of the essence. Please… is there anything you can do to help? I’m running out of options quickly, and feel like I’m simply banging against the same brick wall.”

Copious research shows that restricting access to abortion doesn’t make it any less frequent; it just makes it more likely that women will seek out unsafe, illegal methods. Despite a century of tireless fighting for reproductive justice, this is still a reality for as many as hundreds of thousands of women in America. Though abortion and contraception are no longer banned outright, conservative legislators have worked with alarming efficacy to ensure that both of these things are essentially inaccessible for the most marginalized groups in our country.

I’m feeling desperate and alone, and I know that time is of the essence. Please… is there anything you can do to help?

In April of 1923, a woman wrote to Birth Control Review, blithely referencing the routine way she had tried to terminate pregnancies on her own. “Every time I get that way, I always take everything I can to get out of it, and it never helps me any, only hurts my health,” she said. A few months later, a woman shared a similar account, saying she had tried to prevent pregnancies by using “an antiseptic douche,” but that had failed, so she began taking drugs recommended to her by a doctor to induce miscarriage: “I have been using [the drugs] since and fear it will kill me for I am getting weaker every day… I know I cannot live long, constantly taking these awful drugs.”

Several decades later, someone emailed Women on Web, describing her own regimen. “I tried taking parsley and vitamin C at 10 weeks, added dong quai and black cohosh a week later, trying an herbal abortion. It didn’t work,” she said. “I started punching myself in the stomach repeatedly for two days.” That didn’t work, either. She wondered what options she had left.

Since the dawn of the reproductive rights movement, advocates have argued that forcing unwilling women into motherhood is dehumanizing, unconscionable, and unjust. In 1923, a woman from California described the effects of this type of reproductive oppression as she witnessed them on her own mother. Once “a person of refinement and culture,” her mother, who had given birth nine times by the age of 45, had been reduced to “a human breeding machine,” she said.

This week, a conservative lawmaker in Oklahoma referred to women in similar terms, while defending a widely maligned law that would require pregnant women to obtain written permission from their sex partners before getting abortions. “I understand that they feel like that is their body,” he told the Intercept. “I’m like, hey, your body is your body and be responsible with it. But after you’re irresponsible then don’t claim, Well, I can just go and do this with another body, when you’re the host, and you invited that in.”

Even after a century of progress, politicians are still trying to push policies that only recognize pregnant women as “hosts,” as ambulatory wombs, as breeding machines. At what point will women be able to know with certainty—rather than just “feeling like”—their bodies are their own?

Source: Broadly

https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/letters-from-women-pleading-for-abortion-sent-in-1917-mirror-emails-sent-today

Rob Pyne braces for an unfavourable report by a parliamentary committee on his proposed changes to the Health Act

16-feb-17

The independent MP leading a push to remove criminal sanctions for abortion in Queensland says he is concerned reforms will be defeated amid opposition from key former Labor colleagues.

The Cairns MP, Rob Pyne, said he was bracing for an unfavourable report by a parliamentary committee on proposed amendments to the state Health Act, his second attempt at abortion law reform.

The report, due on Friday, would be a decisive influence on a parliamentary vote for the bill amid escalating pressure from church and anti-abortion groups that have flagged targeting pro-choice MPs at the next state election, Pyne said.

Pyne said he was “concerned a majority of MPs on the current committee”, which includes three Labor MPs, “are anti-women’s choice on abortion”.

“And I am very concerned that, with an election just around the corner, more excuses will be found by committee members and MPs to vote down my bill, just to keep their jobs, while Queensland women remain criminalised for seeking abortion healthcare.”

Queensland and New South Wales are the only two Australian states where abortion remains an offence under criminal law, except under certain circumstances.

The Liberal National party opposition, from whose MPs the bill will need votes to pass, is to consider the report before it reveals whether it will allow a conscience vote.

One of its staunchest abortion opponents, the Cleveland MP and born-again Christian Mark Robinson, was appointed to the health, communities, disability services and domestic and family violence prevention committee just three days before the report was due.

Robinson told Guardian Australia that the report was “largely done and dusted” when he joined the committee and his contribution was “minimal”.

He said Pyne’s efforts at reform had been “amateur hour”.

The committee recommended that Pyne’s previous bill to take abortion from the criminal code, which allows a woman to be sentenced to up to seven years’ jail, be voted down.

Two Labor MPs on the committee, Leanne Linard and Aaron Harper, previously declined to declare their position on that bill before their report to avoid perceptions of bias. The third, Leanne Donaldson, could not be reached for comment.

Pyne’s proposed amendments to the Health Act are an attempt to address earlier concerns. He said they were consistent with his and “women’s rights group’s assertion that abortion is an important health issue not a criminal law issue”.

They specify that only doctors can perform abortions and that doctors and nurses are under no duty to perform abortions unless a woman’s health is seriously at risk.

For terminations of foetuses older than 24 weeks, two doctors would have to agree a woman’s physical or mental health would be at greater risk if she continued the pregnancy.

The bill would mean a woman does not commit an offence by “performing, consenting to or assisting in an abortion on herself”. It would also create “safe zones” of at least 50 metres around abortion facilities.

The parliamentary inquiry into the bill drew an extraordinary 1,275 submissions, most by individuals opposed. But most professional organisations, including the Australian Medical Association and the Queensland Nurses Union, largely supported the bill.

Public debate flared after the Catholic archbishop of Brisbane, Mark Coleridge, compared late-term abortions to Nazi eugenics at an anti-abortion rally last Saturday. Coleridge later apologised for the remark.

But he also offered to “counsel” the deputy premier, Jackie Trad, a pro-choice Catholic, for whom he said “it may be more a political judgment than a moral judgment”. Trad rejected the offer, adding she “would have thought the archbishop had more important things to focus on”.

She spoke at a pro-choice rally on Thursday, calling on MPs to support the move to decriminalise abortion.

Anna McCormack, a spokeswoman for the Women’s Abortion Rights Campaign, said the vote of opposition LNP MPs whom the group had identified as “sympathetic” to reforms would be crucial. “We have concerns about the LNP ones because we think they’re under a lot of pressure to not vote according to their conscience,” she said.

“I think if the LNP ones who we believe are sympathetic are allowed to vote according to their conscience, the bill could get through – just. But if the report comes down recommending against the bills, it won’t get up. There’s no hope.”

Both Labor and the LNP previously said they would allow “conscience” votes on the issue. An LNP spokesman said despite this “all LNP members” had supported the findings of the committee which rejected Pyne’s first bill removing abortion from the criminal code. “On the second bill … the LNP will consider the report and it will be discussed by the party room after it is received,” he said.

McCormack said a defeat of abortion law reform in Queensland in 2017 would trigger “deep, deep anger and deep disappointment not just in our group but across many areas in the community”.

“Why would Queensland go this way when other states like Victoria and WA, South Australia, Tasmania have removed abortion from their crimes acts or criminal codes?”

She said her group, which formed last September to support Pyne’s push, was composed of “old women who were young in the 70s and 80s, which is when we first campaigned for abortion rights”.

“I take a sign to protest rallies that says, ‘I can’t believe I still have to protest this fucking shit’ – the old woman’s placard,” she said.

A Galaxy poll commissioned by the Australian Family Association last May found 53% of Queensland people wanted abortion laws to stay the same or be made stricter. A 2010 Newspoll commissioned by GetUp found that 72% of Queenslanders supported decriminalising abortion.

Source: The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/16/queensland-pro-choice-mp-fears-abortion-reform-doomed