The Queensland government has introduced laws to decriminalise abortion to state parliament.
Queensland and New South Wales are the only two Australian states that still outlaw abortion.
Introducing the bill to state parliament on Wednesday, Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath said the laws would move abortion from a criminal matter to a health issue.
“No one ever makes this decision lightly, but all women across Queensland should have the right to make this decision for themselves,” Ms D’Ath told the house.
“I do this for our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our friends. I do this for women who have fought long and hard for the right to autonomy over their own bodies.”
Under the new laws, women would be able to ask to terminate pregnancies up to 22 weeks.
“Safe zones” of 150 metres would also be put in place around clinics to stop women, their loved ones and staff from being harassed.
Ms D’Ath said the issue was an emotive one for many people, and called for a “calm, civilised and considerate” debate over the coming months as the bill makes its way through the process to become law.
In a sign of the changed nature of abortion in Queensland, the bill was referred not to the Legal Affairs committee, but to the Health Committee.
Meanwhile, the government has launched an online “fact checker” to provide accurate information about the proposed changes.
Health Minister Steven Miles said the changes make abortion a health issue, not a criminal one.
“A woman should not feel like she is breaking the law by seeking a termination, and a doctor should not feel like they are breaking the law by simply doing their job,” Mr Miles said.
The issue has seen strong push-back from religious and pro-life groups, who have published a number of polls in recent weeks to support their position.
Mr Miles said some of the claims being made by those groups were incorrect, and he hoped the fact checker would help people form an “educated opinion” on the issue.
Labor MPs will be allowed a conscience vote on the emotive issue.
The Liberal National Party opposition says it will wait to see the legislation before deciding whether its MPs will be free to vote with their conscience.
The bill is expected to be debated and passed before the end of the year.