Queensland on Wednesday became Australia’s latest state to decriminalize abortion, repealing an century-old law that made the practice punishable with prison time.
State lawmakers voted 50 for and 41 against to overturn the 1899 law that criminalized abortion, the New York Times reports. The new law will allow women to terminate a pregnancy up to 22 weeks, or after that deadline with the approval of two doctors. Previously, women in Queensland could be imprisoned for violating the abortion ban.
“History has been made,” Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk tweeted. “Women will no longer have the fear of committing a crime when making the deeply personal decisions over their own bodies.”
The Queensland bill’s success followed decades of campaigning by women’s rights activists in the conservative Australian state, including a failed effort last year.
Wednesday’s vote, which followed two days of debate, revealed a stark gender divide: the vast majority of the “nay” votes were cast by men, according to local media reports.
Queensland’s decriminalization of abortion comes in the wake of a significant increase in the number of women representing the state, particularly in leadership positions. In addition to Palaszczuk, who became the first, female state premier to achieve reelection in Australia last year, Queensland’s deputy premier and half of the cabinet are women, according to the Times.
Deb Frecklington, the leader of the state’s opposition Liberal National Party, instructed her bloc last week to vote their conscience even if it meant crossing party lines. Frecklington herself was one of the six MPs who voted against the repeal.
Queensland now joins the majority of Australian states to legally permit abortion. Only New South Wales (NSW), which includes the city of Sydney, continues to ban abortion except in extenuating circumstances such as for medical, financial or mental health reasons.
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