A parliamentary committee is currently considering a bill that would decriminalise abortion in Queensland. It was introduced by independent MP Rob Pyne after a 12-year-old girl was forced to go all the way to the Supreme Court to get approval to undergo a termination.
One abortion provider, Dr Fiona Mack told the committee, in a written submission, that she knows of at least three women who have recently been turned away from public hospitals because doctors were unwilling to provide abortions. One of these woman was a 42-year-old patient, who was diagnosed with cancer, and whose doctors refused to proceed with chemotherapy while she was pregnant.
Though many people assume abortion is completely legal in Australia, access to abortion is something of a lottery. In Queensland, for example, abortion is a crime although considered lawful if it’s performed to prevent serious danger to a woman’s physical or mental health. Doctors face up to 14 years in prison if they provide terminations outside of these circumstances – and as a result some can be reluctant to perform them.
In NSW, the only reason that women and doctors aren’t prosecuted for abortions is not because of enlightened attitudes or legislation but because authorities have allowed generous interpretations of the law in recent years.
In Victoria and the ACT, abortion is now decriminalised.
Around one in four Australian women will undergo an abortion in their lifetime.