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Pyne bills withdrawn after LNP votes to block proposed abortion legislation

Rally for life: Participants take part in the March for Life in Brisbane’s CBD in February.
Photo: Alan Edgecomb

PRO-life campaigners are claiming victory after the scrapping of Queensland’s controversial abortion bills.

Member for Cairns Rob Pyne withdrew his two private member’s bills, which aimed to legalise abortion, a day before the bills were due to be voted on in Parliament on March 1.

“It was a victory for common sense,” Cherish Life Queensland president Julie Borger said.

“These bills totally overlooked safeguards for women such as independent counselling, informed consent, cooling-off periods and parental consent requirements, which the vast majority of Queenslanders support.”

The Pyne bills faced almost certain defeat because there were major concerns the legislation as it stood would introduce legal complications for women and their doctors.

Instead, the Labor Government referred the existing laws relating to termination of pregnancies to the Queensland Law Reform Commission with a Labor undertaking to act on the commission’s recommendations in the next parliament.

This means the abortion issue is effectively shelved until after the next state election, due by early next year.

Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge called withdrawal of the Pyne bills as a positive sign.

“It’s a recognition that the drafting of this legislation was unworthy of the Parliament but it doesn’t touch upon the deeper moral questions that legislation, however it’s drafted, raises,” he said.

“I can only hope the new legislation whenever it comes will not only be much more soundly drafted but will be sounder morally as well.”

The withdrawal of the bills follows intense political manoeuvring.

Two days ahead of the abortion bill debate, Opposition Leader Tim Nicholls sealed the deal in the LNP party room by offering his MPs a conscience vote.

“What I can say is that after this discussion every single member of the LNP party room indicated that, in good conscience, they cannot support these bills,” Mr Nicholls said.

LNP members vowed to block the two abortion bills because they claimed Mr Pyne’s proposals were deeply flawed.

“The first bill left the entire area of abortion unregulated and this was clearly untenable,” Mr Nicholls said.

“The second bill attempts to correct the failures of the first bill but falls well short.

“It creates further risk and uncertainty as shown in the parliamentary committee report – this doesn’t help anyone.

“In fact, the second bill makes it legal for a woman to secure her own abortion without medical supervision – including by the use of illicitly obtained drugs.

“The second bill also creates additional legal uncertainty and an ongoing legislative conflict between the Criminal Code and the Health Act.”

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, who has been a strong proponent of legalising abortion, said referring the issue to the state’s law reform commission was the sensible option in the circumstances.

Mr Pyne said he didn’t view the withdrawal of the bills as a failure.

“I am fairly confident the recommendations that come back will be similar to what is in my bills,” he said.

Mrs Borger said the withdrawal of the Pyne bills followed “thousands of letters written by pro-life supporters to their MPs, a petition with tens of thousands of signatures, and successful public rallies”.

She called on the State Government to drop its plan to refer abortion law to the Queensland Law Reform Commission and instead appoint a balanced and representative community advisory panel to review the whole issue.

“This sensitive issue is so important and complex that it demands a proper and balanced review, not just by a group of lawyers, but by a panel of experts from both sides of the debate, drawn from doctors, women’s groups, counselling agencies and advocacy groups, as well as lawyers,” she said.

“I think around this whole debate we have started looking at the shortfalls, and I would be surprised if there wasn’t movement in the future to try to introduce legislation that would better support women. I would hope so.”

By Mark Bowling

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