In 2016-7 former Labor MP and independent Rob Pyne proposed radical liberalisation of Queensland’s abortion laws as a private member’s bill. The public uproar about the harms of such a change led to the referral of the issue to the Queensland Law Reform Commission. Some opponents of abortion believed that the process would result in, at the very least, the moderation of Queensland’s approach taken to the issue.
Those people could not have been more wrong. The QLRC process has been used by Labor to justify a new bill to liberalise abortion law that is even more extreme than that which Pyne prepared. And now that the Queensland state election is over, there is little prospect of people power stopping Labor from implementing the change.
Let me summarise my objections to the policy of the Palaszczuk government’s policy under ten distinct points:
- Labor’s 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. How can they properly determine the mother’s “physical, psychological, or social” interests? One can only imagine what constitutes a situation adverse to one’s ‘social’ interests. It would be a tragedy to see children losing their lives in favour of a parent’s right to socialise.
- Labor’s bill enables abortion for the purposes of sex-selection. It smacks of a repugnant treatment of children as accessories for adults, rather than lives of inherent value.
- Under the legislation proposed by Labor, 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. Given a 2018 poll 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, I expect that I am not alone in my convictions.
- The bill would establish a 150-metre exclusion zone around abortion clinics in which “prohibited conduct” is—as the term suggests—prohibited. The nature of the prohibition conduct includes benign actions such as respectful conversations and silent prayer. The boundary can be extended at the discretion of the Minister. If you wanted evidence that freedom of speech and religious freedom were under fire in this country, then look no further.
- While a doctor retains the right to refuse to perform such a procedure, 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. Doctors who refuse to become ‘merchants of death’ have in other jurisdictions been referred for disciplinary action by their profession.
- Labor’s policy does not allow any cooling-off period for a woman or couple that seeks an abortion. It makes no requirement for a mother to undergo 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.
- Further, 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. Labor loudly speak against domestic violence in other contexts – why not in this one?
- If Labor were really serious about women’s empowerment, they’d offer a real choice to women: full information about the options available with time and counselling to support that choice, support to raise a child even in unplanned circumstances, support to deliver a child for adoption to one of the thousands of Australian families seeking to adopt in circumstances of their own infertility.
- There is also some irony in the invocation of human rights law in support of these radical abortion proposals. The 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.
- 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, 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.
All of this should come as no surprise. Labor went to the last election being very open about their support for late-term abortion. But in a state without a house of review to temper the extremes of majority government, it is a timely reminder that all our choices, including on whom we vote for and to whom we direct our preferences, deliver enormous consequences.
In this case, it is literally the difference between life and death.
Amanda Stoker is an LNP Senator for Queensland
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