June 4th 2016

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Gross desserts on the sex-education menu

CANBERRA OBSERVED Suggested parallel less a Murphy than a furphy

EDITORIAL Obama rewards Vietnam: a particularly nasty regime

ENVIRONMENT Land sinkage, not rising sea levels, the real threat

LIFE ISSUES Who am I? Baby's first memoir

SOCIETY Haircuts and tattoos: new rebels get funky

LIFE POLICY Queensland abortion bill is out of step with voters

SEXUAL POLITICS Gay 'marriage' and the given in human procreative behaviour (part 1)

RURAL LIFE Some of the reasons why farmers need a new bank

It's a queer theory that says kids can transgender (Part Two of two)

MUSIC Digital sonics by no means free of glitches

CINEMA Action movie lacks punch: X-Men: Apocalypse

BOOK REVIEW Tragic betrayal

BOOK REVIEW Great reformer or great dictator?

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Queensland abortion bill is out of step with voters

by Luke McCormack

News Weekly, June 4, 2016

On Tuesday May 10 former Labor MLA for Cairns, now independent, Rob Pyne, tabled a bill to wipe abortion from the criminal code.

Queensland independent Rob Pyne

Yet new independent opinion polling commissioned by the Australian Family Association in response to Mr Pyne’s bill shows that more voters are opposed to decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland than are in favour.

AFA spokeswoman Angela Duff speaking at Parliament House said: “With 13 specific, objectively worded questions, this comprehensive research has avoided skimming the surface of the issue as most past polls have done and has drilled down to find out what the Queensland public really believes.”

Conducted by independent market-research firm Galaxy Research, the randomised telephone opinion poll of 400 Queensland voters taken between May 6 and May 8, 2016, reveals that there is no consensus for the abortion law to be changed, except to introduce safeguards for women such as independent counselling, cooling-off periods and parental consent for minors – as well as conscientious objection provisions for doctors and nurses.

The Abortion Law Reform (Woman’s Right to Choose) Amendment Bill 2016, to much surprise, was only two pages long – around 50 words in total – and simply strikes out three sections (s224–226) of the Criminal Code.

It seems that Mr Pyne has done little to no community consultation before compiling this bill. For example, his bill makes no attempt to introduce safeguards of any kind. Yet the poll reveals that almost everyone (94 per cent) believes that before having an abortion a woman should receive free independent counselling and information so that she can make an informed decision.

Furthermore, more than four out of five (84 per cent) of Queensland voters believe that abortion can harm the mental and/or physical health of a woman.

The bill makes no attempt to restrict abortion in order to protect vulnerable women and their babies. Yet when asked “up to what stage of pregnancy would you allow abortion”, 22 per cent of Queensland voters said “not at all” and 50 per cent said only in the first three months – meaning that 72 per cent of Queensland voters are opposed to abortion past the first trimester.

It also should be noted that support for abortion even in the first three months is heavily qualified, with 45 per cent of Queensland voters opposed to abortion for non-medical – that is financial or social – reasons, and only 38 per cent in favour.

If passed into law, Mr Pyne’s bill would in fact render Queensland legislation silent on abortion. This means anything goes, late-term abortions included.

Dr David van Gend, of World Federation of Doctors Who Respect Human Life (Courier-Mail, May 11, 2016) wrote: “As it stands, the [Queensland] law waves the flag for justice, which placates some, while waving through most early abortions, which placates others. It satisfies nobody but keeps some sort of social truce; from a statesman’s perspective, it gets the balance right.

“This peacekeeping compromise is being threatened by Member for Cairns Rob Pyne’s private member’s bill to abolish any legal restraint on abortion … like they have in Victoria – where unborn babies older than the premmies in our hospital wards are free to be killed for any or no reason.

“Human rights lawyer Frank Brennan called this Victorian legislation “totalitarian”, not only for allowing cruel late-term abortions ‘on demand’, but for prosecuting any doctor or nurse who conscientiously objects.”

With almost half (49 per cent) of Queensland voters opposing the decriminalisation of abortion, and 43 per cent in favour, the bill should be rejected as soon as possible.

If none of the above reasons is strong enough to sway some would-be supporters in Queensland Parliament, the poll also revealed that, come election time, an average swing of 6 per cent would be generated against members of Parliament who had voted in favour of decriminalising abortion (24 per cent swing against versus 18 per cent swing towards).

Queenslanders’ cautious approach to abortion and their acknowledgement of its harms and their desire to restrict abortion is not some accident or prejudice but has been learned painfully through experience.

In fact, a larger poll in 2005 by Southern Cross Bioethics Institute’s Dr John Fleming revealed very similar caution nationwide. The most obvious reason is that Australians have now had several decades of numerous abortions in their communities and families.

With annual rates of about 80,000 abortions at present, the toll of abortion is widespread in our communities. Lawmakers would do well to investigate honestly the trauma of abortion and promote adoption instead as a win-win-win alternative: for the mother, for the baby and for the adoptive parents.

Luke McCormack is Queensland President of the National Civic Council.

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