The Archbishop vs The Politician: Abortion a Volatile Issue in Queensland

  • February 24, 2017
  • News
  • Comments : Comments Off on The Archbishop vs The Politician: Abortion a Volatile Issue in Queensland

The Archbishop vs The Politician: Abortion a Volatile Issue in Queensland

The long running and heated debate over proposed decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland, a state with the most restrictive abortion legislation in Australia, takes an unexpected turn as the Archbishop of Brisbane offers of counsel are unceremoniously rejected by Queensland Deputy Premier Jackie Trad. “I would have thought the archbishop had more important things to focus on, like the inquiry into institutional abuse and the findings that are coming out of that inquiry than what is before the Queensland parliament,” Ms Trad told reporters.

In a year of rising household debt amid a national culture of stagnating wage premiums this is yet another slap in the face to the Australian family household battling to stay afloat in a turbulent sea of bankrupt sentiment and plainly outdated tradition. Lack of access to clinics is a major barrier Queensland women face when it comes to accessing safe and legal abortion services, in a state where the law still considers abortion to be illegal except in cases where the mother’s health is deemed critically at risk.

Remote and rural access are two of the sunshine state’s biggest impediments when it comes to abortion. Women in the state have just ten abortion clinics to service their needs, seven of those are in the south-east corner, around Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The others situated in Rockhampton and Townsville flying doctors in from Brisbane for just one day a week to perform surgical terminations. For women who live north of Gympie and west of Brisbane, there is a grand total of zero abortion clinics within close distance.

Homeless women, women who are experiencing family violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are further disadvantaged when it comes to abortion access. Current abortion laws most impact the state’s neediest. For those who do not live near or cannot afford the services of an abortion clinic, some GPs are able to administer medication abortions until nine weeks’ gestation. However, there is no publicly available list (if any) of how many GP clinics offer the service, or where they are based.

While there are no standardised data collection around unplanned pregnancy and abortions in Australia, it is generally accepted that somewhere between 10,000 and 14,000 abortions take place each year in Queensland. Last year, just 295 terminations were performed in Queensland’s public hospitals as recorded by Queensland Public Health. It is not known how many hospitals this figure is spread across, but experts believe very few. It seems the majority of abortions are carried out by private clinics.

The medical community remains divided over abortion. Women who live in Brisbane’s south may be actively excluded from abortion access within the public health system. Queensland Health said that Logan Hospital performs abortions in accordance with the current legal framework. A small percentage of those have to travel interstate to do so. Because state laws around gestational limits vary, it is cheaper in some cases to travel to Sydney or Victoria than undergo the procedure in Queensland. Clinic terminations at 19 weeks can cost as much as $4000. Those at nine weeks are about $500, with the price rising steeply the later in pregnancy the abortion is performed.

Australia has a relatively low uptake of the most effective long-acting reversible contraceptives compared to other countries and so has more unwanted pregnancies. As is, the law is not protecting women from unsafe abortions and at-home attempts to terminate. Unsafe abortion was one of the leading causes of death and disability among Australian women of reproductive age until legislation experienced gradual change throughout the 1970’s.