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Abortion Access in Queensland About to Get Even Harder

  • January 14, 2017
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Abortion access in Queensland is about to get even harder

Queensland has the most restrictive abortion legislation in Australia, and the situation is about to get worse.

Marie Stopes International will cease surgical terminations in two of its north Queensland clinics, making abortions even harder to access for a remote population already heavily disadvantaged by geography and socio-economy

The news, exclusive to Daily Life, is a blow to women in a state where most abortions are still unlawful according to its 1899 criminal code.

Despite approaching the state government for funding, the Townsville and Rockhampton Dr Marie clinics have incurred massive financial losses and will be forced to drastically scale back from February.

Women in Queensland are resorting to knitting needles to induce miscarriage, says Children by Choice.

Chief executive of Marie Stopes, Alexis Apostolellis, said “that the decision to cease the surgical termination procedure at the clinics was our very last option.”

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.

Queensland women, should they attempt to seek an abortion:

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, according to Children by Choice. Seven of those are in the south east corner, around Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The remaining three are on the coast, with Dr Marie clinics 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 in close proximity.

Pro- and anti-abortion protesters gathered outside Brisbane’s Parliament House in May. Two of those clinics, in Rockhampton and Townsville, will cease surgical terminations from February. The move comes after Dr Marie made massive financial losses in its attempt to support women who otherwise have no access to abortions. 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.

Women march in Washington D.C. in 2004, in defence of abortion rights. 12 years on, the issue is still debated in Queensland. 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, Children by Choice points out there is no publicly available list (if any) of how many GP clinics offer the service, or where they are based.

Standardised Data Collection:

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, according to Queensland Health. It is not known how many hospitals this figure is spread across, but experts including those at Children by Choice believe very few. The majority of abortions are carried out by private clinics.

The medical community remains divided over abortion. Children by Choice is aware of one non-Catholic public hospital that refused to take a patient who had been referred for an abortion by a GP after a sexual assault. “The GP was disgusted and confused and trying to support the patient,” says Kate Marsh, of Children by Choice. “Good people are getting the run around, wasting time and resources and energy.”

Children By Choice:

Children by Choice – 70 per cent of which is funded by the Queensland government, “ironically”, says Marsh – financially supports 300 women a year to access terminations. 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.

Children by Choice is contacted by girls aged 12 to women in their 50s. Abortion can impact anybody and no contraception is 100 per cent effective. 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 amongst Australian women of reproductive age until laws changed in 1970s, the charity says.

 

Pope Francis Grants Priests Authority To Absolve Abortions

  • December 11, 2016
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Pope Francis Grants All Priests The Authority To Absolve Abortions

Pope Francis has declared that abortion, which remains a “grave sin” in the eyes of the Catholic Church, can be absolved by ordinary priests for the foreseeable future — instead of requiring the intervention of a bishop.

The change was implemented on a temporary basis, for one year only, as part of the Catholic Church’s “Year of Mercy,” which began last December and ended on Sunday.

In a letter released on Monday, the pope announced that the change was being extended indefinitely.

“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life,” the pope wrote in the letter. “In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father. May every priest, therefore, be a guide, support and comfort to penitents on this journey of special reconciliation.”

“Because the Roman Catholic Church holds abortion to be such a serious sin, it had long put the matter of granting forgiveness for it in the hands of a bishop, who could either hear the woman’s confession himself or delegate that to a priest who was expert in such situations,” The Associated Press explains.

In the U.S., Catholic News Service reports, most bishops have routinely granted the faculty to their priests, but the Year of Mercy made the permission universal.

In the letter, the pope indicated he was extending the ability to absolve abortions “lest any obstacle arise between the request for reconciliation and God’s forgiveness.”

Back in January 2014, Pope Francis, criticised by some conservative Catholics as not speaking out forcefully against abortion, said Monday that the practice is “horrific” and evidence of “the throwaway culture.”

In an annual speech known as the pontiff’s “State of the World” address, Francis told diplomats and journalists gathered at the Holy See that it “is horrific even to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day.”

Hunger, he said, is a threat to world peace, noting that food, like human life, is being discarded as unnecessary.

“We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed ‘the throwaway culture,’ ” Francis said.

“Our life, with its joys and sorrows, is something unique and unrepeatable that takes place under the merciful gaze of God,” he said. In counseling couples priests must use “a careful, profound and far-sighted spiritual discernment, so that everyone, none excluded, can feel accepted by God, participate actively in the life of the community and be part of that People of God which journeys tirelessly toward the fullness of his kingdom of justice, love, forgiveness and mercy.”

“Nothing of what a repentant sinner places before God’s mercy can be excluded from the embrace of his forgiveness,” the pope wrote. “For this reason, none of us has the right to make forgiveness conditional.”

Some conservative Catholics were alarmed when Francis said in September that the church must end its “obsession” with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality or risk falling “like a house of cards.”

As the Two-Way reported last year, when the change for the Year of Mercy was announced, allowing priests to grant absolution for abortion does not constitute a “doctrinal shift” for the church.

“Forgiveness has always been available — albeit through more formal channels,” Candida R. Moss, a professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, told NPR at the time. “That message wasn’t out there because the rhetoric that accompanies abortion is so elevated that it eclipses the Church’s teaching on forgiveness and mercy.”