Thursday 14 October 2010

Cairns couple declared not guilty in landmark abortion case

It was the first time that the young Cairns couple talked to the media in nearly two years, and it only lasted for 30 seconds.

Sergie Brennan and Tegan Leach, both in their early 20's, were struggling to hold back their joy today, as they left the Cairns Courthouse, being declared not guilty with procuring an abortion after standing trial under Queensland's 111-year-old abortion legislation. This was the first abortion trial in 24 years. A successful conviction carries a seven year jail term.

The 12-person jury of eight women and four men found Leach and her partner Brennan, not guilty of the charges of "procuring an abortion and supplying drugs to procure an abortion."

"We'd like to thank everyone for the support," Brennan and Leach said in a brief statement outside the court, late this morning. Groups that campaigned in support of the couple included the Cairns Womens Network, ProChoice Cairns, ProChoice Action Collective, and Getup!

The Court determined that the imported drug, RU486, was not a noxious substance. Cairns Police found three empty pill packets that had traces of the drug in their Mount Sheridan home February 2009. A forensic scientist from Queensland Health said that there were traces of the drugs in the packets.

"We are all feeling pretty pleased for this young couple," Peter Lambert of ProChoice Cairns told CairnsBlog. "RU486, both chemicals are not noxious, they are medicines. It says in the Act that it must be a noxious substance, and the two medicines used from the package that was found, are not noxious substances, they are medicines. They are used by the World Health Organisation and millions of women around the world, every day."

ProChoice Cairns says today's decision makes the Queensland Law completely out of date.

"It makes them absolutely worthless," Peter Lambert says. "It makes sections 224, 225, and 226 of the criminal code useless. RU486 can be used and is not considered a noxious substance, and this is not only for woman's rights, but also for our case that these sections [of the law] be repealed. This makes it easier for doctors to prescribe and easier for politicians to repeal those sections."

Pro Choice says the fight is far from over.

"We're not stopping," Peter Lambert says. "We're never going to stop reminding Anna Bligh that she stood by and did nothing for this entire case. We're never going to stop reminding [Cairns MP] Desley Boyle our local Member, that she stood by and did nothing, while this case went on for a year. We are constantly going to remind these women, they are meant to be in support of pro choice, but stood by and did nothing at all."

Lambert says both Bligh and Boyle are members of the lobby group Emily' List, that supports progressive women candidates to be elected. It supports equity, diversity, pro-choice, and the provision of equal pay and childcare. The organisation contributed $600,000 to Labor women's campaigns since 1996.

"If you are a female Labor party member, and you're on Emily's List, you believe in woman's rights and safe legal abortions," Peter Lambert said. "They [Anna Bligh and Desley Boyle] did sweet F.A. for the entire 18 months. Desley Boyle wouldn't even answer our emails, that's why we picketed her office. It is in Anna Bligh's power to make a recommendation to the Attorney General, for a reform of this law. She sits on the fence, and she won't do anything about this archaic 111 year old law, while this 18 month trial went on, destroying two young people's lives."

"We are not going to let these two politicians forget it," Peter Lambert says. "On behalf of ProChoice Cairns, we will hold them to account."

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh is coming to Cairns this Saturday to open up the new community health centre on Sheridan Street. A large contingent of protesters from the pro choice and anti-privatisation lobby are expected to be there to hold the premier to account.

"Ironically, this new facility that she will officially open, houses the sexual health clinic," Peter Lambert says. "We will be there to meet her on Saturday, and remind her of her backflip on woman's issues. She's a coward. Both spineless, weak, political cowards. On behalf of woman's issues, they should be stripped of their womanhood."

Meanwhile, a former Queensland Labor politician told the Sydney Morning Herald she wanted to move a private member's bill decriminalising abortion but caved under pressure from Premier Anna Bligh. Bonny Barry, a former Aspley MP, speaking at the pro-choice rally outside the Cairns Court, said she wanted to move a private member's bill on the matter four weeks after Ms Bligh became premier in late 2007.

"However, the premier convinced her to hold back because there wasn't enough support in parliament for the bill."

In typical disrespectful style, the hungry mainstream TV media, pursued the young camera-shy couple across Sheridan Street, and through a carpark. Maybe at the next MediaMix social, we should drop a couple RU486 pills in their drinks so they don't breed.


Warren Entsch said...

Anna Bligh, a client of international pedophile sodomist bankers? She does what she is told? She knows who her bosses are?

Why go against the people everytime? EVERYTIME? What else can explain the insanity?

Stuart Traill said...

Good stuff, the campaign has been relentless. Keep up the good fight. Great result for the couple, hopefully the pollies change the laws before anybody else has to go through what they both had to endure.

Bryan Law said...

Hey Stu,

If we leave it to "hope', the only thing pollies will change would be an upgrade of their wages and conditions.

The finding of the jury makes the existing laws farcical - but only if another jury keeps on saying so.

Young women may continue to be charged and forced into the Supreme Court lottery UNLESS the laws are changed.

Where is Desley Boyle, Anna Bligh, and all the labor women we trusted with this issue?

MG said...

@ Bryan

I am with you Bryan the law needs to change

great result today

Leigh Dall'Osto said...

I can't help wondering what would have happened if the result was 'guilty'. Perhaps the Government would have been forced to address this issue immediately....the public outcry would have been HUGE!!

Instead, we have a 'Not Guilty' verdict (realistically, the only verdict likely), and I fear that this may well result in the State Government using the verdict as justification for leaving things as they are.

Keep up the fight everyone, continue to lobby the MP's, keep the issue in the spotlight and don't stop until the law is changed, permanently.

Nobody should ever have to go through what these two young people have. They did it with dignity, conviction and with a maturity well beyond their years.

Destiny Rogers said...

Some sense at last - disgraceful what they've been put through because of an archaic law. They did nothing unusual - abortions are happening every day - they simply made a mistake and used a not yet allowed in this jurisdiction method. Even if people are against abortion, they should be campaigning against the laws - not a young couple who did what others do every day without comment.
And what a fucking betrayal when a Labor Government sits back without comment while ordinary people are subjected to such a terrible ordeal.

Anonymous said...

Anna Bligh should be shamed into bringing on legislation to scrap this archaic law, and that would put pressure on the recalcitrants in Parliament, who would have to wear it when they go to the next election.