Threats of reprisals against Queensland MPs who voted to legalise abortion

MPs were given a conscience vote in Parliament and voted 50 to 41 to reform the 19th century laws. Courtesy: ABC

Pro-life groups have threatened MPs who voted to remove abortion from Queensland’s criminal code, vowing to remove them from office.

MPs were given a conscience vote in Parliament and voted 50 to 41 to reform the 19th century laws.

The legislation means abortions will be available, on request, up to 22 weeks’ gestation.

Termination would also be allowed after 22 weeks, with the agreement of two medical practitioners that “in all the circumstances” the abortion should be performed.

Three LNP Opposition MPs used their free vote to support the Government’s legislation, including former Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls, Steve Minnikin and Jann Stuckey.

They voted against their party’s endorsed policy on abortion.

Teeshan Johnson, from pro-life group Cherish Life, said they would launch targeted campaigns to attack MPs who supported the laws and their future election chances.

“This has strengthened Cherish Life’s resolve to remove pro-abortion MPs at the next state election,” she said.

“As the first responsibility of government is to protect innocent human life, these politicians have shown themselves to be unfit for public office.”

So-called “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.

One Government MP, Jo-Ann Miller, voted against her own party’s proposal, and Logan MP Linus Power abstained from voting altogether.

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, highlighting the sensitive nature of the controversial bill.

Some MPs addressed the threats, which included internal party pressure warning their preselection would be rejected or jeopardised if they voted against party lines.

“I … reject absolutely any improper threats or improper inducement made to influence my position on this bill,” Mr Nicholls said.

“It wasn’t an easy step, 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.

Media player: “Space” to play, “M” to mute, “left” and “right” to seek.

“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.”

Ms Stuckey said the decision had lost her “many hours of sleep”.

“There were some areas I had of concern — at the end of the day, though, I did feel that it was time that termination was decriminalised and that women should be able to make a choice,” she said.

“Although it might be marked as an historic piece of legislation and archaic laws being changed, for me and most of my colleagues it’s not a cause of celebration.

“I was most comforted by the text my husband sent me straight away — my husband being a GP who had studied obstetrics years ago — who just said, ‘I’m so proud of you for having the courage to stand by your own conscience’.

“That probably carries more weight in this world than anything for me.”

Mr Minnikin also said he appreciated the controversial nature of the issue, but needed to vote with his conscience.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said she didn’t believe there would be a backlash from voters.

“I think that looking at other jurisdictions, that this issue will essentially go away,” she said.

“The majority of Queenslanders, the majority of people right throughout our nation just think that this is something that is a health issue between a woman and her doctor.

“If there are people who don’t believe in abortion, they shouldn’t seek an abortion but for those who need to have an abortion because of a whole range of circumstances they shouldn’t be deemed criminals for having done so.”

Legislation won’t change termination numbers: AMA
Australian Medical Association Queensland vice president Dr Michael Cleary said the legislation was welcomed by the medical community.

“It’s always been a concern for medical practitioners that termination of pregnancy was regulated under the criminal code,” he said.

“These are modern laws and provide the much-needed safety and certainty that women and clinicians in Queensland need.

“I don’t believe that there will be a change in the number of patients who access termination of pregnancy services, and that’s certainly been the experience in other states — really, this is a change in terms of the way these types of matters are regulated.”

The pro-choice counselling service “Children by Choice” said the decision showed “we actually trust women”.

“We trust women to make the decision that is right for them,” said manager Daile Kelleher.

“Finally we’re seeing these laws up to date and in line with what society’s expectation is.”

But Ms Kelleher said abortion was still not accessible for rural and regional or vulnerable women.

“Rural and regional women have to travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometres to access this health care,” she said.

“It’s not available in the public health system and that really affects vulnerable women. We’re talking about women in poverty, women trying to escape domestically violent relationships, who don’t have control over their own finances.

“As a service, we have to fundraise, crowdfund and do no-interest loan schemes with really vulnerable women so they can access a termination of pregnancy.

“It can range from $400 to a couple of thousand dollars and that’s just out of reach.”