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Abortion anomaly -

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Abortion anomaly

Broadcast: 03/09/2009

Reporter: Megan Woodward

In Queensland, some hospitals have stopped offering abortions, and many women are wondering if
their terminations are legal. It is all because a Cairns couple is facing charges of illegally
procuring an abortion. While some were hoping the case would lead to broader abortion law reform,
today the Queensland Parliament passed what the State Government calls technical adjustments to the
legislation.

Transcript

RAFAEL EPSTEIN, PRESENTER: In Queensland, some hospitals have stopped offering abortions and many
women are wondering if their terminations are legal.

It's all because a Cairns couple is facing charges of illegally procuring an abortion.

Prosecutors say 19-year-old Tegan Leach and 22-year-old Sergie Brennan used drugs from overseas to
terminate a pregnancy earlier this year.

While some were hoping the case would lead to broader abortion law reform, today the Queensland
Parliament passed what the State Government calls technical adjustments to the legislation.

This report from Megan Woodward.

MEGAN WOODWARD, REPORTER: Pro-choice advocates have gathered outside the Cairns court for the last
24 hours hoping to provide some support to Tegan Leach and her boyfriend Sergie Brennan.

DR HEATHER MCNAMEE, CAIRNS GP: The vigil is to highlight how outrageous and outdated it is that
abortion is still in the criminal code in Australia.

MEGAN WOODWARD: The couple is charged with illegally procuring an abortion. In court today,
prosecutors said police were searching the couple's Cairns home in February on an unrelated matter,
when officers found two empty tablet packets. The officers believed they'd contained a version of
the medical abortion drug RU-486.

The criminal code says a woman who attempts to procure a miscarriage by administering poison or
noxious thing, or uses any kind of force is guilty of a crime.

The couple's defence lawyer argued that because no chemical analysis was done, there was no
evidence to prove that the drug's Ms Leach admitted to taking were in fact poisonous or noxious.
The defence also said there was no medical evidence to confirm that Tegan Leach did miscarry as a
direct result of taking the five tablets.

Police prosecutor Sargent Peter Austin told the court that while there was no evidence in regards
to the chemical compound of the drugs taken, he argued that only one obvious conclusion could be
drawn when considering what was taken, why it was taken and what the affect of it was.

The magistrate was going to commit Sergie Brennan to stand trial on the charge of supplying drug to
procure a miscarriage but Sandra Pearson agreed to reserve her decision when Mr Brennan's lawyer
asked to withdraw an earlier concession in regards to his client's case.

Meanwhile in Brisbane, State Parliament was working to clarify the issue for medical and legal
authorities. The Government moved amendments to the state's criminal code aimed at providing legal
protection for doctors prescribing drugs to perform abortions.

DOROTHY PRATT, INDEPENDENT MP: It allows greater certainty for doctors administering medical
abortions but does not provide the decriminalisation of abortion.

ANNA BLIGH, QLD PREMIER: The bill before the house is a bill with a technical amendment. Just one
MP, the independent Liz Cunningham, voted against it.

MEGAN WOODWARD: But supporters of Tegan Leach and Sergie Brennan say today's law reform doesn't
really change anything.

DR HEATHER MCNAMEE: There won't be too many doctors in Queensland prepared to go back to offering
medical abortion just with a little bit of fiddling at the edges of the law.

MEGAN WOODWARD: Some Queensland hospitals have stopped allowing medical terminations using drugs,
fearing prosecution with the legal uncertainty.

Megan Woodward, Lateline.