Australian Woman Could Face Jail For AbortionS

A woman in Queensland, Australia, has been charged with "illegally obtaining her own abortion" for taking the abortion drug RU-486. If convicted, she could face up to seven years in prison.

According to The Australian, Tegan Leach, now 21, learned she was pregnant in 2008. She and her partner Sergie Brennan, now 22, decided together that she would have an abortion, and he asked his sister to send abortion drugs from the Ukraine, where she lived. Leach took the pills, but police found the empty package in an unrelated search of her home. Now Leach is charged with illegal abortion, and Brennan is charged with assisting — he could go to jail for three years.

Australian abortion laws are different in each state, and sometimes vague. In Queensland, abortion is only legal if it's deemed necessary to protect a woman's physical or mental health. The prosecutor in Leach's case called her abortion a "lifestyle choice" and not a health matter — in a police interview, Leach said, "I can't look after myself, how can I look after a child?"

According to RH Reality Check, this is the first time a Queensland woman has been charged under the abortion law, and one pro-choice group calls the law "anachronistic: it is a 19th century law for 21st century women." The Australian Council for Civil Liberties recommends that abortion be decriminalized in Queensland as well, up to 20 weeks. Protests were scheduled over the weekend to get the Australian government to drop the charges, but the trial has gone ahead. In his final statement to the jury, defense lawyer Kevin McCreanor said the abortion law was passed when "women had no rights." He added, "I ask you on behalf of these two young people, to put an end to the nightmare they are going through and return a verdict of not guilty." Returning such a verdict would be a first step — the next would be for Queensland to decriminalize abortion so that women can access the procedure safely and legally, without resorting to importing drugs.

Abortion Jury Told Morals Not On Trial [ABC News]
Pregnancy Unconfirmed For Woman Accused Of Illegal Abortion [ABC News]
Cairns Abortion Case To Begin October 12th [RH Reality Check]
Drug Taken Before Pregnancy Confirmed [The Australian]
First Illegal Termination Case For 25 Years [The Australian]

Image via ABC News