Bligh to rewrite law to abortion to protect doctors
Jamie Walker | August 21, 2009
Article from: The Australian
QUEENSLAND will rewrite part of its hotly contested law on abortion to accommodate doctors' concerns that they may be liable to criminal prosecution for performing drug-induced terminations.
Premier Anna Bligh, confirming a report in The Australian today, said the Government would review a section of the Criminal Code that is supposed to provide a defence for doctors to perform an abortion, otherwise banned by state law, to preserve the mother's life or health.
Doctors at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital this week suspended medical abortions out of concern that section 282 of the criminal code referred only to surgical abortions and so did not cover them for terminations involving drugs such as the abortion pill, RU486.
The issue has been brought to a head by the charging of a couple in Cairns with criminal offences for illegally procuring an abortion, allegedly with RU486 and another abortion drug, misoprostol, smuggled into the state from overseas.
Ms Bligh, who is on the record as personally favouring decriminalisation of abortion, said today that doctors performing authorised medical abortions were entitled to same legal protection surgical procedures had under the law.
"What we are looking at is where a doctor provides medicine, that is authorised for any purpose, that they should be entitled to the same protection already provided under the criminal code for any authorised surgery, whether it is in relation to termination of pregnancy or indeed any other surgery,” Ms Bligh said.
Deputy Queensland Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said the Liberal National Party would be willing to support the change, provided it did no more than clarify the existing law, and did not make abortion more readily available.
Obstetricians at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital were due to meet this afternoon to discuss an appeal by the Government to resume their medical abortion service.
NSW and Victoria both said today there were mechanisms for patients to be referred from Queensland on a case by case basis, and neither government would block such access.
Queensland retains the harshest laws in the country against abortion, with offences carrying up to 14 years' jail.
Ms Bligh, however, has ruled out wider reform of the contentious law.