The obstetrician who was instrumental in introducing the abortion pill RU486 said the acquittal of a Cairns couple last week on abortion-related criminal charges has effectively decriminalised its use by doctors in Queensland.
Professor Caroline de Costa said she had independent legal advice to that effect, saying the precedent set by the acquittal strengthened the limited defence in the Queensland criminal code for doctors to perform abortions to preserve the life of the mother, reports The Australian.
Her assertion is based on reviews by a retired judge and a senior barrister of the jury finding that cleared 21-year-old Tegan Leach and her boyfriend of procuring a drug-induced abortion for the young woman.
"We believe that section 282 of the criminal code, which restricts abortion to cases in which the woman's life or physical or mental health is threatened by continuing pregnancy, is therefore no longer relevant for a Queensland medical practitioner performing a medical abortion using those drugs, since a crime is not committed," Professor de Costa said in a joint statement with fellow medical practitioner Michael Carrette, with whom she set up the first service in Australia to use RU486.
"The decision in this case has in fact decriminalised the use by doctors of mifepristone (RU486) and misoprostol for the purpose of medical abortion in Queensland," she said, although criminal sanctions apparently remained on surgical abortions.
Abortion legalised by pair's acquittal (The Australian)
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