Thursday, 14 October 2010

More on the Australian 'self-abortion' case

The bizarre Australian 'self-abortion case may be over, but its impact may be long lasting.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said the jury had correctly represented society.

"[It was a] sensible decision by the jury," he said.

"It's always difficult to know what motivates a jury but I'm sure part of it was the common feeling that [Ms Leach and Mr Brennan] had been put through more than enough.

"One of the great things about juries is the history is that they have been prepared to deliver verdicts contrary to the law and this is what they have done in this case."

Canadian readers will immediately see the similarity to the trials of Dr Henry Morgentaler.
On June 1, 1970, Morgentaler was arrested in Montreal for performing illegal abortions. In 1972 he ran in the Federal Election in the riding of Saint-Denis as an independent, finishing fourth with 1,509 votes. Later in 1973 he claimed to have performed 5,000 illegal abortions. He was acquitted by a jury in the court case, but the acquittal was overturned by five judges on the Quebec Court of Appeal in 1974. He went to prison, appealed, and was again acquitted. In total, he served 10 months, suffering a heart attack while in solitary confinement. Morgentaler first went to the Supreme Court of Canada in an attempt to overturn the country's abortion law in Morgentaler v. The Queen but was unsuccessful.

In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted as part of the Canadian Constitution. Morgentaler was charged again in 1983 in Ontario for procuring illegal miscarriages. He was acquitted by a jury, but the verdict was reversed by the Court of Appeal for Ontario. The case was then sent to the Supreme Court of Canada. He was acquitted once again, and the Canadian Supreme Court declared the law he was convicted under to be in violation of the Charter and thus unconstitutional in the case of R. v. Morgentaler 1988 (1 S.C.R. 30). This ruling by Justice Brian Dickson essentially ended all statutory restrictions on abortion in Canada.

The over-reaching cops and prosecution in Oz may well come to regret the Pandora's box they've opened.

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