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Conscience vote on abortion bills promised to MPs, Premier confirms

Pro-life supporters

Abortion push: A pro-life rally held in Brisbane’s CBD last year. Two abortion bills will be among the first to be debated in State Parliament in a likely state election year.

QUEENSLAND Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has promised to allow Government members a conscience vote on two contentious abortion bills.

The Premier’s promise follows speculation that some Labor MPs had urged colleagues to consider the bills as decriminalisation matters rather than the abortion vote that requires a mandatory conscience vote under Labor’s national platform.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad is an abortion supporter and backs the two bills introduced last year by independent Member for Cairns Rob Pyne.

However a spokesman for Ms Palaszczuk refuted there was any caucus move to pressure Labor MPs.

“Everyone in the Labor Party respects it is a conscience vote. They can still discuss issues around it but at the end of the day it’s up to the members – they are not bound to vote one way, they can vote with their conscience,” the spokesman said.

“The Premier reiterated that (a conscience vote) when this issue first arose last year.”

Since the 1984 national conference abortion has been deemed to be a conscience vote for Labor Party members.

The bills will be among the first to be debated in a likely state election year.

In January the Government rolled back its controversial lockout laws and announced more assistance to taxi owners angered by the legalisation of ride-sharing services.

The LNP has promised members a conscience vote on the two private member’s bills.

Labor Member for Greenslopes Joe Kelly, who until December sat on the parliamentary Health committee examining the two abortion bills, said it was wrong to suggest there was caucus pressure to back the Pyne bills.

“Not only do I think it should be a conscience vote, that is the rules of our party,” he said.

“I’d expect those rules to be applied across the board.”

The first bill aims to remove abortion from the Criminal Code and the second sets guidelines, such as the establishment of 50m “safe zones” and gestation limits.

The bills will be considered together, and are set to be debated on Parliament’s next sitting Wednesday night  – following the tabling of the Health committee report on the second bill – and every subsequent sitting Wednesday night until they are either passed or fail.

Parliament resumes on February 14 – and the abortion bills top the list on the notice paper for the first sitting day.

Debate could begin as soon as February 15.

Pro-life supporters are encouraged to join Brisbane’s March for Life on Saturday, February 11, starting at 3pm.

Marchers will assemble at Queens Park, cnr William, Elizabeth and George Sts, Brisbane CBD, from 2.45pm.

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