Tegan Leach has been found not guilty of inducing her own abortion — but the premier of her Australian state says abortion laws there are unlikely to change.
Twenty-one-year-old Leach had been charged with "illegally obtaining her own abortion" for taking abortion pills her partner Sergie Brennan got from his sister in Ukraine. He was charged with assisting her. Today, a jury took less than an hour to acquit them. Obstetrician Caroline D'Costa told ABC News that the verdict was a referendum on Queensland's restrictive abortion laws, which currently allow the procedure only if a woman's mental or physical health is at risk. She said, "I believe that the fact that they've been found not guilty is a very clear demonstration that the people of Queensland do not think these laws are appropriate in the 21st century."
However, the jury's decision may have been one of semantics. According to The Age, Judge Bill Everson instructed jurors that to return a verdict of guilty, they had to be convinced that the drugs Leach took were "noxious" to her health as well as that of the fetus. Queensland law specifically bars a woman from "administer[ing] to herself any poison or noxious thing" to induce abortion, but an obstetrics expert told the jury that the RU486 Leach took was not "injurious" to her. The jury may have ruled Leach not guilty on a technicality.
Queensland premier Anna Bligh tweeted today that she "supports the decriminalisation of abortion, but the majority of MPs do not, and a law change requires that majority." According to the Sydney Morning Herald, "the anti-abortion lobby is loud, it is organised and often it is downright offensive" — and Queensland MPs will be hesitant to change the law because "they want to avoid the noisy minority who oppose abortion making their lives difficult." Though it may not be enough to decriminalize abortion, RH Reality Check's Robin Marty points out that the case will have an effect: "for the first time abortion opponents are seen doing what they really want to be doing: punishing women for not wanting to have a child." If nothing else, the jury has sent the message that they're not willing to do that.
Abortion Couple Not Guilty [The Age]
Calls For Law Reform After Couple Found Not Guilty For Abortion [ABC News PM]
Abortion Trial Reinforces Queensland Stereotypes [Sydney Morning Herald]
Queensland Abortion Trial May Revolve Around One Word: "Noxious" [RH Reality Check]