It was a confronting weekend to be a person who may one day fall pregnant. With Roe v. Wade overturned in the United States, it was deflating to hear abortion rights were being set back decades at a time where it feels turmoil is at every corner. Overturning the policy now prevents abortions from being a federally-protected right, rather each state can now enforce their own policies. Daughters now have less rights than their mother's in the USA, and many are also wondering if same-sex marriage will next be a target of the Supreme Court. Like many, it made us curious as to what our abortion laws are in Australia and how this differs from states and territories alike. And while Australia has generally accessible abortion care, there are instances where we still have a way to go. Read on to learn about Australia's abortion laws and how they affect your city.
New South Wales
In 2019, abortions in NSW were stricken from the crimes act of 1900 and moreover, the Abortion Law Reform Act of 2019 passed. According to Family Planning NSW, this means pregnant people can no longer be arrested for getting a legal abortion and doctors are able to perform abortions if they get informed consent and their patient is less than 22 weeks pregnant.
If your pregnancy is greater than 22 weeks, the abortion will be performed in a hospital or approved facility by a specialist.
Queensland abortion laws are similar to that of NSW. Queensland had passed the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018, with this legislation guaranteeing abortions are treated as a health issue and not a crime.
If a pregnant person seeks an abortion in Queensland when less than 22 weeks, this can be done without having to justify with a reason to their doctor. If they are more than 22 weeks, two separate medical practitioners must agree the abortion should go ahead.
Australian Capital Territory
Abortion laws in the ACT differ slightly from NSW and Queensland. People can seek medical abortions up to eight weeks pregnant and surgical abortions from up to 16 weeks. ACT Health also notes, “In specific cases, the Canberra Hospital can provide an abortion at a later gestation.”
Medical abortions are available up to nine weeks after getting pregnant, according to family planning Tasmania. They also go on to explain surgical abortions are available up to 12 to 14 weeks pregnant. However, if someone seeks an abortion after 16 weeks, their situation needs to be evaluated by two doctors and they will then determine if the abortion goes ahead.
Individuals are able to get an abortion up to 24 weeks pregnant in Victoria. If they are seeking an abortion after 24 weeks, their medical practitioner must seek a second opinion that agrees this should proceed.
Two key pieces of legislation Victoria has produced include the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008, decriminalising the act of attaining an abortion, alongside the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Act in 2008 which was updated in 2016 to provide additional safety to abortion providers and patients.
As reported by the ABC in 2021, Northern Territory parliament passed legislation making getting an abortion a lot less difficult. Pregnant people no longer have to consult two doctors if they wanted an abortion between 14 to 24 weeks. The Parliament also made abortions up to 24 weeks easier to access, instead of 23 weeks, and it is now legal to terminate pregnancy after 24 weeks if approved by two doctors.
Western Australia has some of the more backward laws when it comes to seeking an abortion. People cannot easily access the procedure after exceeding 20 weeks pregnant. As reported by Go to Court, individuals seeking an abortion after 20 weeks can only be granted one if two medical practitioners who are members of a panel appointed by the minister have agreed that the mother, or the unborn child, have a severe medical condition that justifies the procedure.”
While abortion laws in Western Australia seem more grim than those in other states, they technically aren’t the worst in the nation at this stage.
Abortions were only decriminalised in South Australia in May 2021 when the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2021 was passed. This allows pregnant people to attain an abortion after being pregnant for 22 weeks and six days. These new laws will only come into effect from early July, after being passed more than a year previous and abortion activists claiming women have still faced many legal hoops to attain an abortion over the last 13 months. As the act takes effect, this should change for the better.