Opinion: Women’s health shouldn’t be a crime

Last month I joined 80 other MPs in supporting the Abortion Legislation Bill to advance further. In the next two weeks, it’s likely abortion reform will be across the line.

Every so often issues crop up in Parliament where MPs exercise “conscience votes” on matters often controversial or involving questions of morality.

Parliament finished debating voluntary euthanasia just a few months ago. Now abortion law reform is on the table and we are being actively lobbied by both sides.

That’s healthy in a democracy. What’s also healthy, in my view, is that we view this issue through the prism of women’s health.

Right now, abortion is still a crime. There is a 1970s-inspired workaround that sees the vast majority of women that have to make their hardest life decision on mental health grounds.

The proposed Abortion Legislation Bill would see this issue removed from the Crimes Act and a health approach taken instead.

Up to 20 weeks a doctor would be able to treat a women purely on health grounds. After 20 weeks abortion services could only be performed if two doctors reasonably believe it is clinically appropriate in the circumstances.

This proposal is remarkable similar to how the law is implemented right now, but with one key difference: we won’t have a law on the books saying women are criminals if they want to make decisions about their own bodies.

Two-thirds of MPs said this law reform should become law. That seems about right to me when I consider surveys in Botany I have run lately have come back about 60/40 or 70/30 in favour.

After hearing the different arguments for and against, and looking at local surveys, I intend to cast further votes in favour of modernising this outdated law.

I accept there are passionate views on either side of this debate. For some, any abortion services are a moral outrage. How I vote will not please all people, but I am pro-choice in this matter.

I challenge other local MPs and candidates with different positions to seriously answer this question: should it ever be a crime for a person to access the health services they need?

Jami-Lee Ross is MP for Botany


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