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New Queensland Law Removes Abortion Barriers by Replacing ‘Woman’ with ‘Person’

The Queensland law, known as the Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2023, will empower nurses and midwives to prescribe abortion drugs.

A recent Queensland law has removed gendered language, replacing “woman” with “person,” to allow nurses and midwives to prescribe abortion drugs.

This legislation (pdf), passed on March 7, makes the language in the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 more gender-neutral.

Several references to “woman,” “women,” and “herself” were replaced, focusing on inclusivity and diversity.

The new Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2023 aims to use gender-neutral terminology throughout.

For instance, phrases like “on a woman” have been changed to “on another person.”

In other sections, both “woman” and “herself” are substituted with “person who consents to, assists in, or performs a termination on themself.”

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An extract from the Queensland Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2023
An extract from the Queensland Health and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2023

The removal of gendered language was supported by the Labor Party and Greens, but opposed by the Liberal National Party and Katter’s Australia Party.

Liberal National Party Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates raised concerns about the changes, questioning potential future events like changing International Women’s Day to International Person’s Day.

In Parliament, she stated, “The bill replaces gendered language from the Termination of Pregnancy Act, Criminal Code, and Powers of Attorney Act. ‘Woman’ is being substituted with ‘person.’

She added, “The opposition will not support the amendments in the bill that affect the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 and Criminal Code.”

Minister Defends Gender-Neutral Language

Health Minister Shannon Fentiman defended the use of gender-neutral language in the legislation.

She emphasized that this change would ensure transgender and gender-diverse individuals receive safe termination of pregnancy services without legal barriers.

Ms. Fentiman stated, “Updating the act to use gender-neutral language ensures equal access to termination-of-pregnancy care by removing a legal barrier for transgender, gender-diverse, and non-binary individuals.”

She added, “This is consistent with the approach taken in other important legislation recognizing transgender individuals.”

Opposition Voices Concerns

Liberal National Party Member for Southern Downs James Lister expressed strong opposition to the measures.

He argued, “Even those not associated with the Liberal National Party have been adamant that only a woman can bear a child and be a mother.”

Mr. Lister criticized the government’s focus on gender-neutral language over more pressing issues.

Liberal National Party member Trevor Watts also disagreed with replacing “woman” with “person” in the Act.

He stated, “Someone seeking these services is clearly a woman and does not need to be replaced with ‘person’.”

Despite objections, an amendment to consider gender-neutral language and abortion separately was rejected.

Nurses and Midwives Granted Prescribing Authority

The legislation passed in Queensland Parliament will allow nurses and midwives to prescribe the abortion drug MS-2 Step.

This drug can terminate pregnancies up to 63 days from gestation.

According to the government, “The Bill will enable nurse practitioners, endorsed midwives, and qualified registered nurses and midwives to conduct medical terminations in early pregnancy stages.”

Currently, only doctors can prescribe the drug MS-2 Step for medical terminations in Queensland.

Ms. Fentiman expressed pride in making these reforms a reality for Queensland women and girls.

She highlighted improved access to safe termination-of-pregnancy care, especially for those in rural and regional areas.

However, Ms. Bates raised concerns about safety risks for women in remote communities and stressed the importance of well-resourced healthcare services for all.

Another legislation introduced in Parliament, the Education (General Provisions) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2024, also eliminates gendered language.

This proposed law replaces “him” or “her” with “the child” or “young person” for inclusivity.

Additionally, “his or her” is substituted with “their” in relevant sections.

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