Calling an abortion ‘a difficult decision’ for women opens the door to those who want to take the decision away from them.
All of us have the right to safe and affordable healthcare.
All of us have the right to safe and affordable medical services.
Women have the right to abortions, a medical procedure that delivers a healthcare service.
Safe, legal and accessible terminations preserve and ensure the autonomy of the lives of women.
No government, no politician anywhere has any business denying women this medical procedure, this healthcare right.
In Queensland, abortion is a crime unless it’s performed to “prevent serious danger to the woman’s physical or mental health”.
It first appeared in the criminal code in 1899 and has stayed there since.
This law, kept in place by our politicians, tells us that Queensland women who have had an abortion are criminals.
This punitive outlook has consequences. Women are turned away from hospitals, bullied by pro-life GPs or forced to travel across the border.
It means a 12-year-old girl had to endure a month long legal process before being able to terminate her pregnancy. It means a Cairns couple found to have drugs to induce a termination of pregnancy in 2010 were charged under the criminal code. It means access to abortion is out of reach for a lot of vulnerable Queenslanders, especially those living in regional communities.
This stigma that to have an abortion is to do wrong is so pervasive it permeates even the pro-choice movement.
We are told that no woman wants to have an abortion but, if they do, accessing this medical procedure, this healthcare right, is a fraught and difficult decision; one women can expect to remonstrate on throughout their lifetime.
We don’t like abortions they say, we wish they were not a reality but they are, so they should be safe, rare and legal.
“We’re not saying you have to approve of abortion, we’re not saying abortion is a good thing, what we’re saying is it shouldn’t be in the Criminal Code,” says Rob Pyne the Independent MP from Cairns, whose private member’s bill to decriminalise abortion was supposed to be debated by the Queensland Parliament on March 1, but has since been withdrawn.
I agree that no woman wants to have an abortion, just like no woman wants to undergo any non-cosmetic medical procedure unless they have to, and it is true that for some women it is a fraught and difficult decision.
But for others, it is not. For others this choice about a medical procedure, about a health care right is clear and obvious and one made easily.
It is a decision they do not regret making, spend little time rehashing and one from which they suffer no negative consequences. To have an abortion is not an act of wrongdoing, it is not a basis for others to judge us by or for us to judge ourselves.
It is a medical procedure, it is a healthcare right and it is entirely our decision.
By speaking about abortion as a bad thing, a difficult decision with lasting consequences we open the door to those who think we are incapable of comprehending the supposed moral weight of our decisions.
Is this why according to the Queensland opposition leader “every single member of the LNP party room indicated that, in good conscience”, they could not support the bill to take abortion out of the criminal code?
Because they don’t trust the women of Queensland, because their conscience is somehow more qualified to make the decision?
Why is an individual woman’s medical procedure, a healthcare right a matter for any parliamentarian’s conscience?
In Brisbane, we have fought before against this type of discrimination; discrimination that masquerades as protectiveness towards women, the idea that Parliament can and should be the moral guardians of women.
In 1965 Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bognor chained themselves to the bar in Toowong’s Regatta Hotel protesting Queensland’s ban on women buying alcohol in public bars.
In 2017 the majority of Queenslanders – men and women, reject the idea that Parliament should choose for women, when eighty percent of them want abortion decriminalised.
They know that abortion is not wrong, a moral hazard from which women should be protected. Yet both major parties, insist that the health rights for women are a matter for Parliamentarians (mostly old white men’s) consciences.
This is why I am running for parliament in the next Queensland election. Unless there are young women like me who aren’t thwarted by the dinosaurs in their own parties, we won’t see any real change for young girls and women.
I am going up against the Queensland Opposition Tim Nicholls the man who said “every single member of the LNP party room indicated that, in good conscience” and I am realistic about my chances of winning.
But just like Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bognor, I want to send a message to the men like him in our parliaments: we are here and we are coming and pretty soon you won’t be calling the shots when it comes to our lives, our decisions and what we do with our bodies.