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Trial update

Dear members and supporters,

The trial of a young couple in Cairns for allegedly procuring an abortion began in the District Court yesterday morning.

Kate Marsh, our Public Liaison Officer, is in Cairns for the trial and is sending through live updates on www.twitter.com with the #abortiontrial hashtag, or follow CbyC on twitter at http://twitter.com/childrenXchoice (as well as the summary below).

As of this morning, almost 45,000 people have signed the national petition by advocacy group GetUp, calling on the Queensland government to overturn these laws! To join them, go to www.getup.org.au

The jury was empanelled first and comprises four men and eight women. The prosecution began with a summing up of the evidence in the case, largely that which has already been reported - the evidence found by police in the couple's home in early 2009, the subsequent statements made to the police during formal interviews, the prosecution's statement that the couple allegedly took the drugs misoprostol and mifepristone without any medical advice or supervision, and a claim that as the police found in the same search a prescription made out for the young woman's partner (for something unrelated), he obviously was familiar with the process of seeing a doctor and seeking treatment. The prosecution states that when the young woman found herself pregnant, the couple discussed it and agreed they were not ready to parent, and that the young woman knew people who had had surgical abortions and that she was 'put off' by the account of the procedure. Prosecution claims the young man's sister in the Ukraine had previously had a medical termination and that he and his partner in Cairns decided that would be a better option for them. Prosecution also states that the young man claimed somebody told him the drugs weren't available in Cairns so he decided to seek his sister's help. The prosecution further claims that the couple sought no medical advice and perhaps did not even receive a confirmation of the pregnancy.

The prosecution also went on to explain, in brief, the difference between medical and surgical methods of abortion, the limited availability of mifepristone, and the possible complications that may arise from its use. They also stated that given the evidence, there were three possibilities for what may have occurred: the young woman had successfully experienced an early medical termination of pregnancy; that she had experienced a natural spontaneous miscarriage; or that she had had a period, and had in fact never been pregnant (in which case, it would still be possible for the prosecution to continue as the law states it is illegal for a woman to seek abortion 'whether or not she is with child').

Prosecution next outlined the charges (under s 225 and 226) that the couple face, and add that for an abortion to be deemed lawful in Queensland, a woman has to prove necessity, ie, that she needed an abortion to preserve her life or her physical or mental health. They allege that there is no evidence either of necessity or of the belief of necessity on behalf of the couple, implying the absence of this is enough to prosecute - sending a worrying sign of the implications of the trial outcome on other women across the state.

The court then heard from three separate GPs who had been consulted by the young woman either before or after her alleged abortion. The court also saw video of the young man's testimony to police ahead of his arrest, in which he stated that both he and his partner had wanted to give a child 'the best', that they couldn't do that under the circumstances, and that in light of this they decided to seek an abortion. He explained that people had told them 'how they do it here' and that neither he nor his partner had wanted that, and that they thought by taking medication it would be an easier and less stressful experience. We also heard details of the physical evidence that was collected from the couple's house during the police search, and the defence established that the police could not, despite...

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