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Qld abortion laws to be clarified -

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EDMOND ROY: The state with the most draconian abortion laws is again in the spotlight with doctors
now refusing to give medical abortions. It's forced some Queensland women to travel to New South
Wales to have terminations.

This morning the Premier has signalled greater protection for doctors who prescribe drugs to bring
on an abortion.

But the Opposition and anti-abortion campaigners suspect it's part of a bigger liberalisation push.

Annie Guest reports from Brisbane.

ANNIE GUEST: Debate over abortion has been brought into sharp focus in Queensland by a looming
court case over the drug RU486. A 19-year-old Cairns woman and her boyfriend face charges over
procuring the drug to have a medical abortion.

Now doctors at Queensland's only women's hospital are refusing to prescribe such medicine and the
president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Dr Ted Weaver has told Radio
National women are suffering.

TED WEAVER: Some people have had to go interstate already. Of course a lot of these things are done
for women that have got serious foetal abnormalities and obviously it's an extraordinarily
distressing time for those women.

ANNIE GUEST: The Government is now seeking advice from the Solicitor-General about the doctors'
position.

This morning the Premier Anna Bligh has signalled greater protection for doctors who prescribe
medicine to bring on an abortion.

ANNA BLIGH: 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 protections already provided under the Criminal
Code for any authorised surgery - whether it's in relation to termination of pregnancy or indeed
any other surgery.

ANNIE GUEST: While the Premier has made no secret of the fact that she personally supports the
decriminalisation of abortion she has again ruled out changing the laws which are seen as the most
severe in Australia.

Under Queensland's Criminal Code surgical abortions are only deemed legal if it is necessary to
preserve the mother from a serious danger to her life or health.

Laws elsewhere vary in their stringency. The ACT and Victoria have legalised abortion.

Right to Life Australia's Graeme Preston is suspicious about the developments in Queensland.

GRAEME PRESTON: Well it is curious that this is all coming together like this and it seems to us
that this might be all part of a push to see the law changed more generally on abortion in
Queensland.

ANNIE GUEST: The Criminal Code in Queensland does state that surgical procedures can be performed
to save a mother's life. What do you say about whether the Code should be clarified to ensure that
doctors are also protected for prescribing medical abortions?

GRAEME PRESTON: Yes well we think the law should be clarified but not to make it so that abortion
is more readily available.

ANNIE GUEST: And the State Opposition's Deputy Leader and shadow attorney-general Lawrence
Springborg says he's also suspicious about the Government's intentions.

LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG: This Premier has a secret agenda and not-so-secret agenda to bring in abortion
on demand. We've seen a lot of social law reform which this Premier doesn't have a mandate for in
recent times, including surrogacy for homosexual gay couples.

ANNIE GUEST: Lawrence Springborg, if the Government does move to clarify the law to give medical
abortions the same protection as surgical abortions, will the Opposition support it or oppose it?

LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG: We would want to see the legislation and if the legislation sought to clarify
the intent of the existing law so that what we thought existed actually does exist, then that would
not be a problem.

ANNIE GUEST: It's not known how quickly the Queensland Government can clarify the situation
surrounding medical abortions but Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists president Dr
Ted Weaver says insurers may not cover doctors performing them until there is greater clarity and
he's added his voice to those wanting the Government to go further.

TED WEAVER: The best thing to happen would be that there was some reform of Queensland law and that
it was removed from, abortion was removed from the Queensland Criminal Code as has happened in
other states.

EDMOND ROY: Dr Ted Weaver from the Royal College of Obstetricians ending that report from Annie
Guest in Brisbane.