The Complete Decriminalisation of Abortion across Australia

An update on the law

Following the passing of a landmark bill on Wednesday 20 September 2023 by the Western Australia Parliament, abortion by doctors has now been decriminalized across all of Australia and replaced with laws which are more health-focused and support reproductive freedom.

What are the changes?

The changes made by the Abortion Legislation Reform Bill 2023 include the following:

  • Previous barriers to obtaining timely abortion care are removed, in that patients seeking to obtain a later-term abortion no longer need to undergo mandatory counselling and requiring the approval of multiple medical practitioners.
  • Health practitioners can object and refuse to provide treatment, but patients must be transferred to an alternative provider or given information on where else services can be accessed.
  • The complete decriminalization of abortion as it is removed as an offence under the Criminal Code, shifting abortions under the WA Public Health Act.
  • The gestational time limit for a procedure is increased from 20 to 23 weeks, which better reflects current clinical practice by providing women who undertake a 19-week scan and discover critical health issues with their baby will have additional time to make crucial decisions.

History and Current Issues

Western Australia was in fact the first Australian state to legalize abortion, following the introduction of the bill to decriminalize abortion by former Labor MP Cheryl Davenport in 1988. But since then, the state has fallen behind in the progress made by other states and territories with respect to viewing the medical procedure as a fundamental aspect of access to healthcare.

The issues with WA’s existing abortion laws were brought to stark attention following the Supreme Court decisions in Roe v Wade in the US, and the importance for laws in this respect to better reflect community values, expectations and modern clinical practice.

If you or someone you know wish to discuss this issue further, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 02 8999 9809.

Freedman & Gopalan Solicitors
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