Abortion Law Australia Three million, seven hundred and eighty thousand women; that Is how many Australian women are likely to choose abortion In their lifetime (Children By Choice, 2013). Do you know how many of those women are able to freely choose abortion without a life-threatening condition in seven of eight Australian states? Zero (Children By Choice, 2014). For this reason, these women are forced to into unwanted parenthood or must seek out unsafe, ‘backyard’ abortions with an extremely high mortality rate.
Thousands of families lose loved ones every year at the hands of strict, authoritarian laws that will continue to claim the lives of young women If nothing Is done about It. Abortion should be recognized as the choice of an Individual woman and should simply not be up for discussion in courtrooms. Therefore; abortion should be decentralized in every state with uniformity and should be classed a medical matter only; so as to adhere to basic human rights of free will and by extension rape victims need to be catered for if they were to fall pregnant to their rapists and do not desire to carry or birth their child.
This will also counteract the deaths caused by unsafe abortions that are made the only option by Australia’s current laws. But what Is a safe abortion? There are two different types of abortion: medical or surgical. A medical abortion is accomplished without having to physically enter the female’s uterus; instead a medication is administered that essentially induces a miscarriage and expels the fetus from the uterus (Healy, 1999). This medication can only be prescribed before the seventh week of pregnancy. After that, a surgical abortion must be sought after.
A surgical abortion Is the manual removal f a fetus before it has developed Into a self-sustaining organism (Healy, 1999). This Is where the cervix Is opened and the content of the uterus Is, In the simplest terms, Vacuumed’ out. This procedure is only performed before 22 weeks into the pregnancy. However, abortion and women seeking abortion have been around long before these innocuous methods were ever discovered. Attempts at abortion date back to Ancient Rome and Greece and was widely accepted by most citizens of the culture. Aristotle, a famous philosopher of Ancient Greece, said “… Hen couples have hillier In excess, let abortion be procured before sense and life have begun; what may or may not be lawfully done in these cases depends on the question of life and sensation” (BBC, 2014). England, a country that most of our law is a derivative of, was one of the first governments to oppose and criminals abortion. English Statute law made ‘quickening’ – that is before the fetus moved in the womb at between 18 and 20 weeks into the pregnancy – a crime in 1803; a crime that was punishable by death (BBC, 2014). Australia still deals with abortion the same way since 1861, as the British
Offences Against the Person Act of 1 861 Is still the governing legislation of abortion In Australia and has not been revised since the decision to keep the British legislation after Australia’s Federation in 1901 (Museum Victoria). The current law on abortion in Australia is inconsistent across the eight states and is out of date. The law should be updated to give women full control over their fertility and be decentralized, particularly to cater for the highly likely emotional trauma that victims of rape would legally terminate the unwanted pregnancy in Queensland and almost each state has separate set of laws regarding the issue.
The law in Queensland regarding abortion can be found in Sections 224-226 of the Queensland Criminal Code 1899. These sections state that it is illegal for anyone, including the pregnant woman, to procure or supply the instruments to procure an abortion; an offence of which is punishable of 14 years imprisonment. However the two main cases involving abortion in Queensland did not result in convictions. The most recent case of R v Leach and Brenna involved a couple that was charged in April of 2009. The nineteen-year-old Oman was charged for procuring her own miscarriage and her partner for assisting her in procuring an abortion.
The woman allegedly ingested a drug that caused a miscarriage and the couple was tried in October of 2010 where they were found not guilty by a Jury due to the fact that the drug, or ‘noxious thing, must be considered noxious to the woman with no regard to the fetus according to the wording of legislation. The case of R v Bails and Culled involved the doctor and anesthetist of the Greengrocers Fertility Control Clinic who were charged with providing unlawful abortions after police raided the clinic in 1985.
The Judge of the trial, which occurred in early 1986, Justice McGuire ruled the two men acquitted based on precedent case R v Davidson (1969) (Children By Choice, 2012). This case set the precedent that if the abortion was “necessary to preserve the woman from a serious danger to her life or physical or mental health (not being merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth) which the continuance of pregnancy would entail; and in the circumstances not out of proportion to the danger to be averted” it would be deemed awful (Children By Choice, 2012).
Since this case, abortion is only legally available to women in Queensland that are threatened with the loss of their life due to their pregnancy. This legislation prevents safe, risk-free abortions to be legally performed on victims of rape and/or incest rape that have had the further misfortune of falling pregnant to their rapists. Pregnancy from rape is said to be rare and unlikely due to women having some sort ‘defense mechanism’ in times of stress – such as during a sexual attack (Eloign & Shirts, 2012) – and by extension should not be written into legislation.
However, a study in Canberra has shown Just the opposite. The Canberra study has shown that 50% of all sexual assaults occur within a domestic relationship and so it is likely that many more pregnancies have occurred as a result of a sexual assault but the involuntary, non-consensual nature of the pregnancy has gone unnoticed (ACT Health, 2013). These incidences have the very likely potential to have a detrimental effect to the already fragile mental wellbeing of a victim of sexual assault.
A rape in itself, or any form of sexual assault for that matter, brings about severe emotional trauma to the victim. For many, the only way to cope with the aftermath of a sexual assault is to attempt to block out as much memory of it as possible. However, this is made impossible for those who have fallen pregnant to their rapist due to the law in Queensland.
Even those who have been molested by a family member and have fallen pregnant cannot terminate the pregnancy legally, which can very possibly result in a child with severe, life-long birth defects or even death; statistics from a Czechoslovakian study revealed that 42% of the children produced from an incestuous union were born with severe birth defects and a rent legal system is having on women everywhere does not stop there.
Further issues that must be addressed are the inconsistency across the states and the fact that our current abortion law is in plain violation of rights set out in the Fundamental Principles of Justice in regards to the treatment that should be received as a victim in Queensland.
Currently if a woman or victim seeking a safe, legal abortion is to be residing within a state that does not currently allow abortion for her situation, she may be forced to continue with pregnancy if unable to travel to a state that caters for err mental and physical needs; as women have been required to after Queensland Health refused offers from Dry Adrienne Freeman to administer abortions for those who have been told to travel interstate for their requested procedure (Andersen, 2009).
Furthermore, forcing a victim of traumatic, criminal experience or any person for that matter into unwanted parenthood is unjust and unfair, which brings us to the violation of a victim’s rights. It is clearly set out in the Fundamental Principles of Justice section of the Guide for Victims of Crime in Queensland that every victim of a rime in Queensland has the right to receive fair, compassionate and dignified treatment, including consideration of needs relating to gender, age, race, cultural diversity, impairment, sexuality and religious belief (Department of Justice and Attorney-General, 2012).
There are extensive ways in which these rights are violated by our current abortion legislation, but an example of one is the consideration of needs relating to age. A female is capable of conceiving as young as age twelve and should a girl of this age tragically fall victim to rape and become pregnant, her needs t her age would not be to carry or birth a child but to abort the pregnancy at the appropriate time in gestation. In so many ways on so many fronts, Australia’s law system needs to change now.
It needs to give all women and victims their rightful choice to avoid the emotional hardship that is the current legal outcome. To do this, a number of recommendations should be implicated. Suggestions have been made recently to adopt the Victorian legislation. Their legislation now requires a doctor to state to any healthy woman seeking an abortion, ‘l cannot accept that what you are asking me to do is morally or medically right. But I must, by law, send you to someone who will help you’ (Family Voice Victoria, 2014).
This requirement of doctors set out in Victorian abortion legislation does currently violate the right to freedom of speech and this particular aspect of the Victorian legislation is recommended to be repealed and not adopted into the new proposed legislation per request of a petition citing in excess 5300 signatures. Instead, women that are themselves healthy, having a healthy pregnancy, who wish to abort during the appropriate gestation time should go straight to an abortion clinic as opposing doctors will no longer be lawfully squired to refer a healthy woman to said clinic.
This will answer the call for change in Victoria whilst remaining fair, Just and equitable for Australian women. Secondly, all legislation must be updated – as it has not been in Queensland for over 150 years – to discriminative abortion completely as NEWS and SLD are the only states to criminals abortion; NEWS sporting a sentence of ten years for committing the crime as per Section 82 of the NEWS Crimes Act 1990. It must allow victims of rape, of incest rape and all women the right to choose a safe abortion free of discrimination or unkind treatment or Judgment.
This will by extension avoid the possibility of a child children from incest relations are and will avoid very significant emotional trauma of a woman forced into an unwanted pregnancy and/or motherhood. This disintermediation will also cease to violate victims’ rights and will provide the fair and compassionate treatment that is deserved by all victims of crime in Queensland. Thirdly this must be implemented with uniformity to all states so a safe procedure is accessible to women residing in any part of Australia who is seeking abortion for reasons that are of her own business and not that of a Judge.
Ultimately, these actions must be taken now to discriminative abortion in all states with uniformity so as to adhere to general rights of common people and the Fundamental Principles of Justice. The time came long ago for the law to catch up with the ever-changing societal issue of abortion and no longer should women be at risk of discrimination for their choices.