Warwick mother Rachel Leslie wants the government to ensure women receive support before and after a decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy.
Warwick mother Rachel Leslie wants the government to ensure women receive support before and after a decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy.

Mum says support mechanisms 'inadequate' for legal abortions

NEW laws to decriminalise abortion in Queensland are expected to come to a parliamentary conscience vote by the end of the year.

A Queensland Law Reform Commission review of current legislation recommended abortions would be allowed "upon request" up until 22 weeks' gestation.

The laws will be debated in State Parliament in coming months.

But a mental health social worker from Warwick has warned of the potential for traumatic impacts of abortion decisions both before and after a procedure.

Kathy Payne has counselled women at various stages of their decision on whether to terminate a pregnancy.

She said women faced a difficult time no matter the outcome.

SPEAKING UP: Imogen Leslie's words stood out amongst those of doctors and lawyers when she spoke on the expert panel on Queensland's proposed abortion legislation on Tuesday. A Year 7 student from Warwick, Imogen was born with Down syndrome but that hasn't stopped her from living a happy and fulfilling life. She and mother Rachel Leslie are urging politicians to consider the disability community when they draft new legislation.
Rachel Leslie gave birth to beautiful Imogen Leslie 12 years ago and has watched her grow and blossom into an "awesome” young woman who lives a happy life with Down syndrome. Marian Faa

"It is a huge decision and there can be trauma pre- and post-decision and it needs to be considered very seriously," she said.

"The decision is life-changing whether someone does or does not have an abortion."

Mrs Payne said women should receive counselling and support from medical and mental health professionals throughout the process.

"People in this situation should get support throughout so they feel they are making the most informed and best decision. Nobody can make a decision for another family."

It is estimated between 10,000 and 14,000 pregnancy terminations are performed in Queensland each year.

Under current legislation, a pregnancy can be "lawfully" terminated if it poses a serious danger to the mother's life or her physical or mental health, excluding the "normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth".

But the draft Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018 allows doctors to terminate a pregnancy if they agree the abortion should be performed, taking into account the mother's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.

Warwick mother Rachel Leslie has lobbied politicians to include mandatory counselling and a 'cooling-off' period for mothers with a prenatal diagnosis of a disability.

Mrs Leslie said increased access to prenatal testing could influence the number of terminations performed, if the legislation is passed.

Southern Downs MP James Lister said his position on abortion reforms remained unchanged.

Pregnant long blond hair woman holds a mug of tea, white tank, blue jeans
Social worker Kathy Payne said decisions on whether to terminate a pregnancy could be life-changing and potentially traumatic. iStock

"My position when I went to the election was that I did not support changes to the law concerning abortion in Queensland," he said.

"My position and the LNP's has been clear, that the current laws ought not be changed."

"Labor's abortion bill was introduced last month and has been referred to a parliamentary committee for detailed examination.

"This may result in changes, so we don't yet know what it will look like until it returns to parliament for debate."

Mrs Leslie said the point was not that abortion was "a bad thing" but prenatal testing must be coupled with accurate and non-biased information that included the lived experiences of people with Down syndrome.

"We just don't have the support mechanisms in place at the moment to make this a functional thing," she said.

Free 24-hour support from female counsellors is available through Pregnancy Counselling Australia on 1300 RESPECT or http://www.pregnancycounselling.com.au/our-services.htm