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Australia's Queensland state legalizes abortion

  • News Desk

    Agence France-Presse

Sydney, Australia   /   Thu, October 18, 2018   /   08:08 am
Australia's Queensland state legalizes abortion A sign by protesters in Warsaw, Poland. (Shutterstock.com/Grand Warszawski)

Queensland lawmakers have voted to legalize abortion, overturning a century-old "morality" law and capping a 50-year campaign in Australia's most conservative state.

The state parliament approved 50-41 late Wednesday the law allowing women to terminate pregnancies at up to 22 weeks, and later with the approval of two doctors.

The legislation also creates 150-meter (492-feet) "safe access" zones around clinics offering abortions where protests are banned, and it requires doctors who refuse to perform abortions to refer women elsewhere. 

Pro-choice campaigners had been seeking since the 1970s to overturn an 1899 criminal code adopted from British law that criminalized abortion as an "offence against morality".

Abortions were rarely prosecuted in the state, but pro-choice campaigners had until now been unable to overturn the criminal code. 

This week's vote come at a time when women hold positions of influence in Queensland politics. The state government is headed by two-term Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, whose deputy, Jackie Trad, is a long-time pro-choice campaigner.

Queensland's main conservative opposition Liberal National Party (LNP) is also led by a woman, Deb Frecklington.

The LNP remains officially opposed to abortion, but Frecklington allowed its lawmakers to vote their conscience, helping push the measure through.

"History has been made," Palaszczuk tweeted after the vote. "Women will no longer have the fear of committing a crime when making the deeply personal decisions over their own bodies."

Anti-abortion campaigners vowed to pursue their efforts.

One group, Cherish Life, called the vote "devastating news".

"The fight will continue. The unborn need us more than ever," it said in a statement.

Queensland was the latest of Australia's states and territories to ease restrictions on abortion and leaves New South Wales, which includes Sydney, as the only state where it remains illegal to terminate a pregnancy, even if the law is rarely applied.

Women in New South Wales continue to have abortions, although they and the doctors who perform the procedures risk criminal prosecution.