Decriminalise abortion

Michael Berkman calls for swift action to decriminalise abortion in Queensland.

The 24th of May, some five weeks from now, will mark 100 days since I was sworn in as your inaugural Member for Maiwar.

My office has had some small wins lately, and celebrated minor milestones such as finally having a new website, and signage on the office!

This has got me thinking about the goals I am setting for my time as your MP, and about the commitments I’ve already made.

One of the commitments the Queensland Greens made in the lead up to last year’s election was to lead the charge in decriminalising abortion, with the wonderful Amy MacMahon, our then candidate for South Brisbane, promising to introduce legislation within 100 days.

“We would pay close attention to the Law Reform Commission’s recommendations when they arrive, but it can’t be used as an excuse to delay any longer,” Amy said.

Of course, those Law Reform Commission recommendations have not yet been handed down.

When the Queensland Greens first made this commitment, on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2017, the Law Reform Commission had just been tasked with undertaking an inquiry into the termination of pregnancy. The Commission did not receive Terms of Reference for this Inquiry until June.

I agree with Amy, that a Law Reform Commission inquiry (or any other kind of inquiry) should not be used as a tool for delaying long-overdue reforms, or as a political instrument.

However, I have faith that is not what is happening here, and that the Commission’s recommendations (when they are handed down) will be based on best-practice public policy, and that the Queensland Government will not delay in introducing legislation to the Parliament.

The Queensland Greens and I support the decriminalisation of abortion, make no mistake about that. The Queensland Greens Women’s Network made a submission to the Law Reform Commission inquiry in February, calling for the full decriminalisation of abortion, and the introduction of a health framework that supported people seeking abortion to be able to safely access the procedure, regardless of their income or geography. I supported that submission then, and I still do today.

I’ve met with abortion advocacy groups, and talked to wonderful, passionate and experienced people within my networks and more broadly.

I’ve considered the fact that two Bills were introduced, and then withdrawn, in the last term of Parliament.

And on the basis of all of that, I will not be introducing a Private Member’s Bill to decriminalise abortion within the next five weeks.

I will not treat something so important, that affects people’s lives so significantly, as a political football.

I will wait for the Law Reform Commission recommendations; and I hope that it proposes good, progressive legislation to bring our law into the 21st century. If it does, and the Queensland Government adopts these recommendations, I’ll back the proposed legislation it when it’s introduced.

I will push for our laws to be the best they can be, and I will push for the Government to ensure it does not delay these reforms any longer.

It’s 2018, it’s well beyond time that this was done, so let’s ensure we do it once and do it right.

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