Story 9: Queensland Law Students Fight for Abortion Law Reform

2014-2021: Queensland

Together For Choice protest, 2018

Through partnerships with the not-for-profit sector, the UQ Pro Bono Centre (PBC) inspires law students to graduate with a lifelong commitment to pro bono legal service. With 500 law students on our roster, the UQ PBC provides assistance through voluntary student placements, projects, and law reform activities. The impact of this work is immense. It can be lifechanging for the students; it bolsters the capacity of the community sector and delivers tangible results for clients and the wider community.

This impact was clear throughout the long and arduous fight for reform to abortion laws in Australia. When a young couple were charged in 2009 for importing drugs and allegedly procuring an abortion, the archaic laws that criminalised abortion were in the spotlight. Women across the country rallied in support of the young couple and advocated for law reform.

Through the UQ PBC, law students devoted many hours to this important campaign.

Between 2014 – 2021, UQ law students completed nine research and law reform papers for organisations advocating for abortion law reform. These included research reports for Children By Choice on reproductive health and domestic violence, abortion law reform, legal action for refusal of termination, reproductive coercion, Gillick competency and termination of pregnancy, and reproductive choice and human rights. Daile Kelleher, CEO of Children by Choice has noted ‘we have engaged with the UQ Pro Bono Centre students over many years to assist with important advocacy work and assistance with legislation that helps to advance the reproductive autonomy of Queensland women and pregnant people and increase access to compassionate abortion.’

Report for Safe Access Zones in Australia

Voluntary work for Marie Stopes Australia has included research and advocacy reports on Safe Access Zones and Nurse-led Services for Medical Termination. After the WA parliament passed safe access zone legislation in 2021, Bonnie Corbin, Head of Policy at Marie Stopes wrote to thank the students for their safe access zones paper noting ‘In the WA Parliamentary debate this week advisors were still referring to the [paper]. The evidence was powerful. There is nothing I love more than an advocacy document that is so useful it makes itself redundant! Gratitude from Marie Stopes Australia who can now provide access to healthcare free from harassment.’

Students voluntarily involved in these projects participated in an historic and celebrated law reform campaign that has benefited women across Australia. The UQ PBC wishes to acknowledge their hard work and dedication.

This story was submitted by the UQ Pro Bono Centre.