Thursday 21 June 2018

Girl (12) forced to wait weeks for court to approve abortion after two suicide attempts

The Law courts in George Street, Brisbane. (Photo: Getty Images)
The Law courts in George Street, Brisbane. (Photo: Getty Images)

Meadhbh McGrath

A 12-year-old Australian girl with a history of self-harm and multiple suicide attempts was forced to seek permission from a Supreme Court judge to end an unwanted pregnancy.

In Queensland, abortion is illegal unless a doctor believes there is a serious danger to the woman’s physical or mental health.

If a child under the age of 14 becomes pregnant and wishes to obtain an abortion, they must first be deemed to have a competent understanding of the procedure by a judge or medical practitioner.

In a judgement published yesterday, the court granted that the girl, known as Q, was “mature” enough to consent to the abortion.

The ruling, made last Wednesday, approved a termination for the sake of the girl’s mental and physical health, and ordered that the abortion drug mifepristone or misoprostal be provided to the girl, who is nine weeks pregnant.

Q told the court that her “very stressful” pregnancy had come about after months of emotional distress, during which she had run away from home, cut herself and attempted suicide twice.

She said she did not think she could cope with raising a child.

Her mother told the court that there was “a very real risk of self-harm and/or suicidal behaviour if her pregnancy was to continue”.

The judge agreed, and said the evidence was “all one way” in favour of an abortion.

“It is necessary to do so in order to avoid danger to her mental and physical health,” he said.

The girl first visited her GP to seek permission for an abortion a month ago, and had been redirected variously to a string of social workers, two specialist obstetricians, and a psychiatrist.

Q, her parents and a number of medical professionals all agreed that an abortion was the best course of action.

The baby’s father, who was described as around the same age, was unaware of the pregnancy, the court heard.

Upon hearing of the legal process the girl had to go through, independent MP Rob Pyne called the case an “absolute disgrace” and said he would work to introduce a bill to decriminalise abortion.

“Because of cases like this I undertake to introduce a private member’s bill into the Queensland parliament to have abortion removed from the criminal code, so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again,” he said.

“We are talking about someone who is vulnerable and I would say having to go through this process is cruel and unusual treatment to dish out to a 12-year-old child.”

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