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Abortion reform: Why has Parliament dragged the chain?

TJ Ryan Foundation Research Associate, Graeme Orr, comments in the Brisbane Times (18.10.16) on the slowness of Queensland’s parliamentarians to enact long-discussed changes to the state’s criminal code to decriminalise abortion.’The decriminalisation of abortion is as close as it has ever been to a serious parliamentary debate. But beware holding your breath.

‘As professors Douglas and de Costa have pointed out, Queensland’s criminal legislation remains little changed from its 1899 wording, which was borrowed from an 1861 British Act.

‘For doctors, the formal law states:  ‘Any person who, with intent to procure [a miscarriage] unlawfully administers … any poison or other noxious thing, or uses any force of any kind … is guilty of a crime.’ Maximum sentence, 14 years.

‘The very next section is titled “the like by women with child”.  It sets a seven-year maximum for the pregnant woman. Later on, we find a defence for medical treatment that is reasonably necessary ‘to preserve the mother’s life’.

‘In a secular society, these laws sound antiquated at best, grossly illiberal at worst.  But there they have lain, in black and white in our criminal code, for over a century.  Why have parliaments been loathe to debate, let alone act?’

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