This week, the Queensland parliament voted to change a 119-year-old clause in the state’s criminal code and officially legalise abortion. Both Labor and Liberal National Party (LNP) members were given a conscience vote, and the legislative change—which now grants people the right to request an abortion up to 22 weeks into the pregnancy—was approved by a comfortable majority of 50 votes to 41.
Among those 50 were three LNP MPs—Tim Nicholls, Steve Minnikin and Jann Stuckey—who voted against their party’s formal policy on abortion in support of the new laws. In so doing, the MPs opened themselves up to criticism and condemnation from within their own ranks, The Guardian reports—to say nothing of the wrath from anti-abortion activists.
Certain anti-abortion groups have now levelled their sights on those who voted in favour of the legislative changes, according to the ABC, vowing to launch targeted campaigns against them and threaten their future election chances. Teeshan Johnson, of the non-party political organisation Cherish Life, claimed the MPs had proven to be “unfit for office”, and thus threatened to undermine their political standing.
"This has strengthened Cherish Life's resolve to remove pro-abortion MPs at the next state election," she said. "As the first responsibility of government is to protect innocent human life, these politicians have shown themselves to be unfit for public office."
This is just the latest in a series of threats against those in favour of decriminalising abortion. Earlier this week, in the days leading up to the official debate on the laws, The Courier Mail revealed that the LNP’s Pine Rivers state electorate council had circulated an email to MPs warning that they would “dis-endorse” anyone who voted in favour of the change.
“Like all LNP members we believe our elected representatives must abide by our party’s values at all times,” the email read. “The Pine Rivers SEC calls on State Council to disendorse elected members of the LNP who support the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018.”
Prior to that, LNP party president Gary Spence cautioned those MPs who planned to back the bill that they could face difficulties when it comes to being preselected ahead of the next election. Following the debate, MPs such as Tim Nicholls rose up and addressed those threats head on.
"I… reject absolutely any improper threats or improper inducement made to influence my position on this bill," said Mr Nicholls. "It wasn't an easy step, it goes against obviously the party policy and quite a few other comments and concerns that people had, so I didn't make it lightly.
"I made it after a lot of consideration, but I think it's the right decision and I think it is and will be seen to be a very historic day for the right reasons. I accept that people won't like the decision I've made, but ultimately that is down to me and my conscience."