With the negativing of the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 [NSW] (A Private Member's Bill) in May of this year (2017), NSW now remains one of only two States where abortion is not decriminalised in Australia.
The main purpose of the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 [NSW] (the Bill) is to remove offences relating to abortion from the Crimes Act 1900 to bring the law in this area in line with modern medical practice, expectations of reproductive health and the rights of women to autonomy over their bodies. At present, abortion is only legal in certain circumstances as interpreted by the common law. Additionally, the Bill would have also required doctors who objected to abortion to refer patients on to a doctor who would help them and to install 150-metre safe access zones around abortion clinics to prevent the harassment of staff and patients.
In brief, the amendments in the Bill would have:
MPs from both sides of the chamber were granted a conscience vote on the issue but the Bill was defeated in the Legislative Council on 11 May 2017 with 25 MP's against 14 voting against the proposed changes.
Labor MP Penny Sharpe said:
"These laws are now 116 years old, after 116 years these laws are no longer in line with community expectation or modern medical practice...Abortion should be regulated in the same way as all other surgical and medical practices. Our current law is archaic and unclear."
With proposals in two bills to reform abortion laws in QLD being withdrawn from Parliament on 28 February 2017, this leaves QLD and NSW as the only two remaining jurisdictions where abortion is a criminal offence.
Currently, in Australia, 4 States have decriminalised abortion including WA, VIC, ACT and TAS. 2 States have made abortion a medical decision for doctors, namely NT and SA. And NSW and QLD remain the only 2 States to criminalise abortion.
The relevant laws across the States are as follows:
Medical Decision States
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights Representative Anna Kerr said that criminalising abortion ran against human rights obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women:
“Australia has an obligation to protect the rights of women and girls to access health services, including family planning and to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children, and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights."
TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.
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