Still fighting for abortion rights in Qld

The campaign to drop the abortion charges against a young Cairns couple continues. In April 2009, Tegan Leach, 19, and her partner Sergie Brennen, 21, were charged under the anti-abortion provisions of the Queensland criminal code.
It is alleged that Ms Leach used abortion drugs, legal in Australia, but brought from the Ukraine by her partner.
A committal hearing has been set for September 3-4.
Abortion is still in the criminal codes of both NSW and Queensland. But in the ACT it was removed in 2002 and in Victoria last year. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is flouting Labor policy which states “all legal distinctions between termination of pregnancy and other medical procedures should be abolished by repealing sections 224, 225 and 226 of the Criminal Code”.
An unfortunate result of these charges has been a decision by the pro-abortion Cairns gynaecologist Dr Caroline de Costa to stop providing the abortion pill, RU486. The doctor and her colleagues are also now refusing to provide safe medical abortions for fear they, or their patients, could be charged.
Some of the lobbying movement support this move, with many urging other providers in Queensland, and across the border in NSW, to follow suit. They believe that this could increase the pressure on politicians to take the issue more seriously. But it is women that will suffer from doctors being intimidated by the law.
Dr de Costa’s decision is a step back in the struggle for abortion rights. If information about RU486 had been more readily available, perhaps Ms Leach would have known she could legally get medication in her own town. It was defiance of the law that first established abortion services anywhere in Australia. It is defiance in the face of the latest attack that holds the hope of finally winning abortion rights.
Resolutions condemning the Queensland charges and supporting the decriminalisation of abortion nationwide were carried at recent student conferences. QUT and UQ students at the Brisbane Queer Deliberations are backing a cross-campus campaign to drop the charges and repeal all anti-abortion laws.
By Susan Shaw


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