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Women Seeking Abortions Are Being Turned Away From Queensland's Hospitals

Anyone who administers an abortion could face 14 years behind bars.

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Unlike in most other Australian states, abortion is only lawful in Queensland if performed to "prevent serious danger to the woman's physical or mental health".

Dan Peled / AAP

It remains in the state's criminal code, punishable by 14 years in jail.

Amanda Bradley who manages the only pro-choice counseling service in Queensland, Children by Choice, said many of her clients had been refused referrals, assessments and treatment for abortions at hospital.

YouTube/TedXSouthBank / Via youtube.com

“A woman who was strangled by her partner was assessed at her local hospital and said that wasn’t a serious enough reason for an abortion, her mental health and physical health were not serious enough for a termination,” Bradley told BuzzFeed News.

Bradley said her organisation had helped to raise funds for a woman with three small children and a violent ex-partner to access a termination because her local public hospital wouldn't provide one.

It had also counselled a woman who fell pregnant after a sexual assault.

"Her local public hospital refused to accept a referral to even assess her for a termination."

One Brisbane abortion provider, Fiona Mack, has assisted three women in the past year who came from hospitals that were unwilling to provide terminations.

Dan Peled / AAP

"These doctors failed in their duty of care to these women," Mack wrote in her May submission to an inquiry into laws governing termination of pregnancy in Queensland.

The ongoing inquiry was prompted by a bill before the Queensland parliament seeking to remove abortion from the state's criminal code.

One of her patients found out she was pregnant at the same time that she was diagnosed with metastatic ovarian cancer. Her oncologist and gynaecologist would not continue with chemotherapy or surgery "until she was no longer pregnant" but would not provide her with an abortion.

"She was required to discharge herself from hospital and make her way to our clinic independently, her sister pushed her over in a wheelchair," Mack wrote.

James Cook University obstetrics and gynaecology professor, Caroline de Costa, is attending a public hearing in Cairns today to debate the bill.

Linden Woodward / AAP

De Costa said she and four other doctors attending today had to be "dishonest" to avoid committing a crime when providing an abortion. "Doctors are currently fearful to provide these services," she said.

"Around one in four women are having an abortion at some point and we have a law that makes that a crime, I don't think many people understand that we are in fact behind the United States," independent MP Rob Pyne, who introduced the bill, told BuzzFeed News

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He said he hoped the medical practitioners present would "help correct some of the misconceptions" held by some Queenslanders.

"Like that in some weird universe we are going to be aborting healthy fetuses at eight or nine months," he said.

That misconception has been circulated by the Queensland branch of the Australian Christian Lobby and its supporters, who have labelled Pyne's bill one of the "most dangerous abortion laws in the world".

Dan Peled / AAPIMAGE

They believe the lack of gestational limit attached to the bill is proof the state would allow terminations up to nine months.

"We are talking about women's control over their own bodies," Pyne said.

The committee is due to deliver its report by August 26.

Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Gina Rushton at gina.rushton@buzzfeed.com.

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