Queensland abortion bill debate brings politicians to tears
Members of the group Abortion Rethink outside Queensland Parliament on Tuesday. (AAP Image: Darren England)
Politicians have broken down in tears and recounted their personal experiences with pregnancy and termination while debating laws to decriminalise abortion in Queensland.
A vote on the proposal is expected late today.
If the bill passes, it will allow abortions up until 22 weeks’ gestation, and post 22 weeks with the approval of two medical practitioners.
Both Labor and Liberal National MPs have been allowed a conscience vote on the bill.
Here is what some have said in Parliament over the course of the debate:
Steve Minnikin, LNP Member for Chatsworth
“No one should be forced to endure a pregnancy they do not want when safe, modern, medical options are available to assist them,” Mr Minnikin said.
“Mr Speaker, I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice, pro-autonomy, pro-respect.
“I support the right of all Queensland women to make reproductive choices that respect their agency, individuality, desires and dreams. In the 21st century, this issue should indeed be a health issue and not a criminal issue.
“If I had a daughter, I would want her to have the same chances in life that my two sons currently have.”
Tim Nicholls, LNP Member for Clayfield
“Women are entitled to control their own reproductive health issues, free from worry and stress from an outdated and restrictive law and in full knowledge that their health and wellbeing is in their hands,” Mr Nicholls said.
Ted Sorensen, LNP Member for Hervey Bay
“I stand here today as a survivor — and if this law was present in those days I would not be alive to speak on behalf of all the babies who have the right to live,” Mr Sorensen said.
“I believe that I had the right to live, I still believe that.
“I just feel like that this bill should be called ‘killing Ted bill’ today because that’s the way I feel. Every baby has a right to live, whether it’s 20 weeks, whether it’s 22 weeks, there’s a real baby there. I was one of them.
“Even in the womb it is a life. Take me for instance, who has the rights today to say ‘kill Ted’? Honestly.”
Joan Pease, ALP Member for Lytton
@JoshBavas: Labor’s Joan Pease also became emotional while speaking on the abortion bill
“I am asking all of those in the House to consider this bill from the perspective of the woman who seeks a termination,” Ms Pease said.
“There is actually a woman out there right now considering one and that woman’s decision will be made in the context of her own complex and possibly conflicting social, moral, religious, political and economic values.
“We can try to put ourselves in her shoes but she doesn’t have our lives, our problems, our options or values or our experiences, so her decision is bound to offend or confound some of us, whatever decision she reaches.
“So Madame Deputy Speaker, and for all of those in the house today my advice is to trust the woman. Trust her to make the right decision, trust her to make the decent decision and trust her to make the wise decision.
“I believe that she is capable of knowing what is right for her at this time in her life — and I respect her, and I respect her decision.”
Deb Frecklington, LNP Opposition Leader
@JoshBavas Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington spoke on the abortion bill for almost 10 minutes
“The implication is that women in Queensland in 2018 risk punishment for having an abortion. That Deputy Speaker is simply not true. Women’s rights are not under attack from police or the courts and suggesting otherwise may stop some vulnerable women from seeking the help that they need,” Ms Frecklington said.
“If vulnerable and desperate women were being dragged before the courts I would be the first to defend them.
“This bill is not about protecting women from persecution. So why is this legislation before the house? It is before us because of politics, pure and simple.
“Instead of allowing termination in the final trimester of pregnancy we should be offering more support to women, but the Government’s framework doesn’t provide any counselling services, it includes absolutely on protections against women being pressured into having a termination.
“Although I cannot support this bill, I am not in principle opposed to reform. I would support extra provisions for counselling and greater safeguards against abortion coercion.”
Steven Miles, ALP Health Minister
“If you vote against this bill know that you vote in favour of laws that disproportionately harm women that live in rural and remote areas and women affected by physical and sexual violence,” Mr Miles said.
“History will record that you voted against legislation designed to ensure Queensland women have reasonable and safe access to reproductive health care in favour of continuing criminal code provisions that are archaic, cruel and degrading.”
Tim Mander, LNP Deputy Opposition Leader
“This bill before the Parliament is flawed in many, many respects and in my opinion it’s also morally wrong,” Mr Mander said.
“There are many things that I believe are wrong with this bill — abortion on demand up to 22 weeks gestation, abortion after 22 weeks for social reasons, no clarity around what ‘consult’ means with regards to getting a second opinion with late-term abortions.
“No opportunity for nursing staff or support staff to express their conscientious objection.
“I believe as do hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders that the foetus in the womb is a baby. It is a human being. This is not a religious view, this is a scientific fact. And because of this it’s just wrong in my opinion to allow a perfectly healthy baby to be killed on demand up to 22 weeks gestation.
“There is anguish, there is heartache, there is lifelong guilt, there is bitterness because innately a woman knows that deep down in their body is a baby and they are terminating the life of that baby.”
Aaron Harper, ALP Member for Thuringowah
“For many years we’ve been behind on this issue. Queensland can now proudly, if this is supported, step out of the shadows and allow women the right to choose,” Mr Harper said.
“I put to members of this Parliament, now is indeed a time to demonstrate your own moral codes, values and beliefs in what is a moment of significance.”
David Janetski, LNP Member for Toowoomba South
“The bill does not even provide the unborn with the protection of the right to a painless death,” Mr Janetski said.
“There is a second interest to be weighed in any termination of pregnancy. Pregnancy cannot be treated as though it is childless.”
Nikki Boyd, ALP Member for Pine Rivers
Ms Boyd has previously revealed she suffered a miscarriage when the abortion issue was last debated in Parliament in 2016 — she is now pregnant.
“Through this process I am a pregnant woman. I can ensure those few on the other side of this debate that the foul vitriol that has been sent to my office has done nothing but strengthen my resolve to create a better environment for all Queensland women,” Ms Boyd said.
“We need a Queensland where women cannot be harassed and intimidated and abused outside health facilities. One with much less stigma, judgement and aggression.”
Andrew Powell, LNP Member for Glass House
Telling Parliament he took exception to abortions after 22 weeks, Mr Powell cited his nephew’s premature birth.
“I know that babies born premature survive and that our medical advances improve their chances each and every day,” Mr Powell said.
“Back in 2013, my nephew Dom was born at just 28 weeks and three days — he weighed 1.1 kilos, you could hold him in the palm of your hand.
“His skin was transparent, he was too small for nappies and he still cried at birth. He left hospital just one week before his original due date.
“He is now a bubbly, veracious, train-addicted young five-year-old but the point is, Mr Deputy Speaker, he was alive at 1.1 kg, just as any other child delivered at term.”
Grace Grace, ALP Education and Industrial Relations Minister
@allysonhorn: Qld Education Minister @gracextwo says the current abortion laws are ‘archaic’
“These laws that we have in the criminal code, made in the late 1800s or 1899, are simply archaic and need to change,” Ms Grace said.
“They were made at a time where women didn’t even have the vote. They were made at a time where there were no women in this Parliament.
“They were made at a time where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders didn’t even have a vote in this house.
“They were made a time where we had no electricity. In fact, Toowoomba got electricity in 1905, Warwick in 1912 and Ipswich in 1917.
“Today we live in a very fundamentally different world than we did back then.”
Robbie Katter, KAP Member for Treager
“I reflect on the very strong part of my life that a disabled child has played that I’m very close to, and the lives of those that are different now have greater chance of being cast from the gene pool,” Mr Katter said.
“I’m sure that’s not everyone’s intent here but certainly it opens the door. These children to me are certainly a gift to us and personally have enhanced mine and their parents’ lives so much that I can’t get my head around why they’re now going to have a slimmer chance of experiencing life outside the womb.
“I’ve heard many stories from people before even now with the existing laws where doctors have suggested, encouraged the termination of a child’s life on account of their defects.
“Then I ask the question myself where does this stop? Is it Williams Syndrome, Downs Syndrome, blue eyes, brown eyes, male, female? Where does this lead?”
Dale Last, LNP Member for Burdekin.
“I shudder to think that a woman and perhaps her partner would consider terminating a life because it is the wrong sex, or the relationship dissolved, or it was no longer convenient to have a baby, or the mother lost her job. To me this is nothing short of murder,” Mr Last said.