Nineteenth century laws preventing women from legally accessing abortions in Queensland have finally been sent to the history books, with the state parliament voting to decriminalise pregnancy terminations.
The new laws passed easily during the conscience vote on Wednesday night, with 50 to 41 votes. It followed two days of intense debate, that included a number of emotional speeches for and against.
The reform will see abortion removed from the criminal code, and grant women the ability to request an abortion up to 22 weeks’ gestation.
Three Liberal party members supported the Labor Government in the vote, including Tim Nicholls, Steve Minniki and Jann Stuckey, along with Greens MP Michael Berkman and independent Sandy Bolton.
Premier: Annastacia Palaszczuk
Deputy Premier: Jackie Trad
Attorney-General: Yvette D’Ath
Half of Cabinet are women
Opposition Leader – allowed conscience vote: Deb Frecklington
— Noely ⚡⚡ (@YaThinkN) October 17, 2018
“I accept that people won’t like the decision I’ve made but ultimately that is down to me and my conscience and I set out the steps and the reasons why I made the decision I did,” Nicholls said regarding his vote.
“We’ve done this for our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our friends. For women who have fought long and hard for the right to autonomy over their own bodies,” Queensland Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said on the new laws.
“Ultimately this is a health issue,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told Parliament. “Does a woman have the right to talk to a doctor about her health without committing a crime? The answer is yes.”
Just one Labor MP, Jo Ann Miller, voted against the reform, and said she had held her view for decades.
The new laws will see “safe access zones” provided for 150 metres around termination and fertility clinics, and give women the ability to access a termination after the 22 week mark if more than two independent doctors agree it should be done.
The move has been years in the making, with a number of passionate advocates fighting consistently for the change to occur. It also comes following a large rally in support of the reforms on the weekend.
Renee Carr, Executive Director of Fair Agenda, said the historic vote will modernise the reproductive healthcare system.
“A woman knows what is right for her body, her family and her future. We thank these MPs for recognising that,” she said.
“Doctors should be able to provide their patients with the best care possible – without fear of criminal charges. This reform makes that possible.
“These laws pave the way for safe and compassionate access to reproductive healthcare for all Queenslanders.”
History has been made. Women will no longer have the fear of committing a crime when making the deeply personal decisions over their own bodies. #qldpol
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) October 17, 2018
— Jackie Trad (@jackietrad) October 17, 2018
Two-and-a-half years ago I wrote one story about women being turned away from Queensland’s hospitals for seeking abortions. I’ve since published more than 100 articles on this issue, many with women in really tough circumstances. I’m thinking about all of those women tonight.
— Gina Rushton (@ginarush) October 17, 2018