Earlier this year we wept tears of joy as the 35-year struggle for safe, legal abortion in Ireland came to a close. We cheered on pro-choice protestors from Argentina to America, many cloaked in scarlet robes reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale as they fought for a woman’s right to her own body.
And yet, as we watched on from afar, did we overlook one important fact? Abortion is still illegal in parts of Australia.
Last night, state MPs in Queensland voted to remove the Termination of Pregnancy Bill from the criminal code. Since 1899 abortion in Queensland has been a crime; women could face up to seven years in jail for undergoing a termination if their physical or mental health was not deemed at risk. The historic vote was passed 50-41, meaning that abortion is now legal until 22 weeks gestation, and thereafter with the approval of two doctors.
Said Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, who voted to decriminalise the procedure, “The right of women to control their own reproduction, their own bodies, is such an important part of equality in our society. To prioritise the rights of a foetus above that of a woman is something that I find offensive …
“In this day and age, I think that is something that doesn’t belong in our society – it’s something that is familiar to me from The Handmaid’s Tale, rather than Queensland legislation in the 21st century.”
New South Wales now remains the only Australian state where abortion is a criminal offence (terminations are however accessible, with safe access zones outside clinics). Abortion is legal across the rest of Australia, with regulations varying from state to state.