Wednesday 8 September 2010

Cairns abortion trial set to enrage local pro-choice campaigners

The age-old dividing question... should a woman have the right to choose, will be the topic for this week's 'Politics in the Pub, at Green Ant, this Thursday evening.

In April last year, a young Cairns woman faced charges under an antiquated Queensland law of the Criminal Code, for procuring an abortion, when she imported RU486 abortion drugs from Ukraine to terminate a pregnancy. She was charged under section 225, which carries the possibility of 14 years imprisonment.

The case will return to Cairns District Court for a three-day trial starting on October 12th.

Dr Carole Ford of the Cairns Woman's Network says that laws restricting abortion has a lengthy history.

“They were first introduced before women were even recognised in law as competent adults. They no longer accurately represent the views of the electorate, with two-thirds of Australians supporting the decriminalisation of abortion," Dr Ford says.

"However, decriminalisation is in line with the current Labor Party policy, but despite forming the Government, they are reluctant to address the issue," Carole Ford says. "It seems an aggressive minority has managed to stifle debate and preclude change in Queensland. Elected Members of Parliament are entitled to their personal viewpoint, but are entrusted with representing the beliefs and interests of their constituents. For many MPs, this is clearly not the case”.

The Cairns Women’s Network supports the right for women, including the 20-year-old Cairns woman, to have reproductive autonomy and calls the Director of Public Prosecutions to withdraw the charges as they are not in the public interest.

“The decisions a woman may make about terminating a pregnancy, for whatever reason, should be resolved in the surgery, not the court room. I encourage all members of the community who share our concern to take positive action to create legislative reform," Dr Ford says.

Pro Choice Cairns is holding an information night on Thursday at the Green Ant Cantina.

When this case hit the headline, then editor of the Cairns Post dished up a nice dose of hypocrisy.

"Whether to terminate a pregnancy must surely rank as among the most difficult and intensely private decisions a person could ever face," editor Andrew Webster wrote at the time. "So it is regrettable that the young Cairns couple now facing court have come under such scrutiny over allegations they attempted to procure an abortion.
They must feel bewildered at what is happening to them."

However, Webster left the best bit to last....

"Their privacy should be respected as they wait nervously for a judgment in their case."

He then proceeded to print photographs of the couple and even published an entire photo gallery on their website, pursuing the couple through the streets of Cairns. There was justifiably outrage from readers...
  • What next for this young girl, a scarlet letter tattooed on her forehead.
    Posted by: Gabbie of Nth Qld 11:20am

  • I'm annoyed at seeing their picture with this article. This poor young couple. I don't see how this is anyone else's [sic] business but their own. I cannot believe that they have been made an example of, and that matter has gone to court.
    Posted by: MD of Cairns 9:45am
The Post was a dirty rat running such a story the way they did, and then a few pages later saying how horrible it is to be named. I said at the time - if only abortions were mandated for some that might produce dodgy newspaper editors.

Peter Lambert of Pro Choice Cairns says that the family of the accused, were the target of fire bombs, following the Cairns Post exposing their names and photos last year.

"They got fire bombed by the Christians, and the Police did nothing about it," Peter Lambert said. "The Cairns Post frequently ignore our issues, the local TV news are ignoring us. We had a protest outside MP Desley Boyle's office, and they wouldn't bring the cameras down."

Queensland law on this matter is increasingly out of step with other Australian States and territories. In 2002, the ACT Legislative Assembly removed abortion from the Crimes Act, and in 2008, the Victorian government also removed abortion from the Crimes Act.

"The majority of public opinion in Queensland has consistently supported the de-criminalisation of abortion," Peter Lambert says. "With pregnancy termination remaining a criminal offence in Queensland, women are at risk of criminal prosecution for accessing a safe medical procedure. Health professionals also remain at risk of prosecution for providing safe abortion services to women."

"Back in the 80's, a High Court decision said you can have an abortion if you have mental health reasons with yourself or a deformed baby," Lambert says. "And that is the only reason why we have the 14,000 abortions a year in Queensland. At the moment all these women go their in extreme depression, post-natal depression, saying 'I'm crazy, I'm going to jump off a cliff if I have a baby'. Well this is just not on."

"This is an 1899 law when woman were kept under veils, weren't allowed to vote, weren't allowed to raise their ankles in public. This is 2010 now, the age of women's liberation. They have the right to make their own decision in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and we wish to repeal those three laws," Peter Lambert insists.

"The upcoming court case will be a focus. There'll be a bus load of feminists arriving outside the courthouse on the day," Peter Lambert says. "Police have thrown this [charges] at those two people, because they had nothing else to throw at them on the day. I suspect there's some sort of Catholic there in the Department of Prosecutions, pushing his own religious views."

Pro Choice Cairns want the following...
  • Drop the charges against the Cairns woman and her partner who are charged under sections 225 and 226 of the Queensland Criminal Code.

  • Repeal sections 224, 225, and 226 of the Criminal Code to ensure that termination of pregnancy is no longer subject to criminal law.

  • Support funding for abortion services through the public health system, with full Medicare coverage for terminations.
Don't be a cry baby, come along...
- Green Ant Cantina
- 6pm, Thursday 9th September


Wendy Davie said...

Thank you Michael for helping publicise this issue and the meeting and discussion on Thursday evening at the Green Ant Cantina's Politics in the Pub.
Queensland women need and deserve the best possible health care and this includes the area of reproductive health. Options, councelling and especially treatment need to be available legally and through medicare to all.

Alison Alloway said...

Attended the Pro-XChoice Meeting tonight. Stood up and explained why I had a termination done in 1984...because my uterus would rupture with the pregnancy. So many people out there really believe they know everything about sex, but they don't know that not all women are child bearing perfect. We are not!!!

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

My wife (Rest her soul) had an abortion in 1974 because of the danger with her acute asthma attacks.
The State of Victoria did not agree, so we told Victoria to suck eggs and moved here!
Now I'm telling all you Pro-lifers to do the same...suck eggs!
A woman's body is hers and nobody else's, therefore, a woman should have the choice to terminate a pregnancy whenever required, whether for medical reasons or not.
The solitary instrument which is catalogued and used as the basis for the prevention of a woman's abortion, just happens to be her Birth Certificate.
If you do a little research, you will find this to be correct.

Dr Heather McNamee said...

Dr Heather McNamee
Thanks to everyone who attended Politics in the Pub - repeal the Abortion Laws.
A vibrant discussion was had by all.
The young woman's court date is looming - 12th October.
If you believe in her right to choose how to manage her health and her body and that this prosecution is a disgrace - please drop by our Vigil (11th -14th Oct Cairns Courthouse pavement 8am- 6 pm)
Have a chat, sign a postcard to the Premier, show Cairns community cares.
Purple is the campaign colour (but not compulsory!)