Nineteenth-century laws making abortion illegal in Queensland have been scrapped, in one of the state’s biggest legislative reforms.
The Government’s controversial plan to decriminalise pregnancy termination passed through state parliament with a comfortable margin of 50 votes to 41.
The laws mean abortion will be available, on request, at up to 22 weeks’ gestation.
It also allows an abortion to take place after 22 weeks if the medical practitioner performing the termination has consulted with a second medical practitioner and both agreed that “in all the circumstances” the abortion should be performed.
“Safe access zones” of 150 metres will also be established around termination and fertility clinics to prevent protesters approaching and hassling women and their families.
All MPs were given a conscience vote.
One government MP, Jo-Ann Miller, voted against her own party’s proposal and Linus Power abstained from voting altogether.
But the Government was supported by three LNP members — Steve Minnikin, Jann Stuckey and the former opposition leader, Tim Nicholls.
Independent Sandy Bolton and Greens MP Michael Berkman also backed the legislative reform.
Over several days, MPs gave emotional speeches about their position on the issue, with many breaking down in tears.
Laws bring Queensland ‘into the 21st century’
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 will ensure women can access services and health professionals can provide these services without fear or stigma.
“It’s taken a century to get to this point,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“I think [the debate] has been very considered, most of the time. People were able to have their say and they were able to get more information.”
“I do want to commend all members on the way in which they handled themselves during the debate. I think there should be more of it and hopefully we’ve set that standard.”
Tim Nicholls, one of the three LNP MPs who voted in favour of the laws said it wasn’t an easy step to take.
“It goes against obviously the party policy and quite a few other comments and concerns that people had so I didn’t make it lightly,” Mr Nicholls said.
“I made it after a lot of consideration but I think it’s the right decision, and I think it is and will be seen to be a very historic day for the right reasons.
“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.”
Jo Ann Miller was the only Labor MP to vote against the reforms.
“I represent 120 multinational communities in my electorate,” Ms Miller said.
“They are not surprised by my vote at all and in fact I have held these views for many decades.”
Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said these laws would finally bring Queensland into the 21st century.
“I am so proud, as the Attorney-General of this state, as a woman, as a mother, to witness this significant reform which provides long-needed clarity,” Ms D’Ath said.
“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.
“Termination is never an easy option for any woman, and no one ever makes this decision lightly, but all women across Queensland should have the right to make the decision for themselves and without fear of criminal prosecution.”