Legal Victory for Abortion Rights in Australia

In February of 2009, a young couple in Cairns, Australia was arrested in their home when, on an unrelated search, police found an empty package of mifepristone, and abortifacient that can be used in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy. Under Queensland law, abortion is illegal except to protect the mother’s life or her physical or mental wellbeing.

The woman was charged with procuring an abortion, while her male partner was charged with supplying drugs to procure an abortion – charges that could have put them in prison for up to 14 years. But just this week, Cairns District Court jury dismissed the charges after deliberating for only an hour.

The ruling sets a new precedent in the area: the couple was admittedly guilty under present law, but the jury refused to convict them of the charges. This could create a legal basis for the pursuit of abortion rights, particularly with regard to medical abortion, which is becoming increasingly preferred as a method of non-surgical abortion early in a pregnancy.

For more information on the pro-choice movement in Queensland, check out the Pro-Choice Action Collective.

For more on the importance of safe abortion, view our factsheet “Access to Safe Abortion Is a Human Right.”

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