Abortion is legal in Australia, but the specific details and conditions may differ between states and territories. In most cases, abortion is permitted if it is performed by a qualified medical practitioner and is considered necessary to protect the physical or mental health of the woman. However, the legal requirements and restrictions can vary.
Abortion refers to the termination of a pregnancy before the fetus can survive outside the uterus. It involves the removal or expulsion of the developing embryo or fetus from the womb, resulting in the end of the pregnancy.
There are different methods of performing an abortion, which can vary depending on factors such as the gestational age of the pregnancy and the woman’s health. Common methods include medication abortion (using medication to induce the termination) and surgical abortion (which involves a procedure to remove the pregnancy).
In Australia, there are two methods available for ending a pregnancy, depending on the duration of pregnancy. You can terminate the pregnancy by either taking medication or undergoing a surgical procedure.
You have the option to seek an abortion at a private clinic, community-based clinic, or, in some cases, a public hospital. Additionally, telehealth services provided by general practices, community-based clinics (like family planning services), or private clinics may offer medical abortions.
Denominational (religious) hospitals and healthcare providers are not obligated to provide abortion services at present.
Abortion has been legal in various parts of Australia for several decades. The decriminalisation and legalisation of abortion occurred at different times across different states and territories.
The first jurisdiction to legalise abortion was the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in 2002. Since then, other regions have followed suit.
New South Wales (NSW) was the last Australian state to decriminalise abortion. Prior to September 2019, abortion was listed as a criminal offence under the NSW Crimes Act of 1900. On September 26, 2019, the NSW Parliament passed the Reproductive Health Care Reform Act, effectively decriminalising abortion in the state. The new law allows women to access health service for abortion up to 22 weeks gestation without specific reasons. After 22 weeks, the approval of two doctors is required, taking into consideration the woman’s physical, social, and psychological circumstances.
In the Australian Capital Territory, abortions have been legally accepted since 1993, and must be administered by a healthcare provider such as a nurse. Women can obtain abortions up to 16 weeks gestation, and medical abortions up to nine weeks gestation are accessible through a trained doctor, telehealth services, or MSI Australia counselling services.
In the Northern Territory, a doctor can perform an abortion for you until the 14th week of pregnancy. From the 14th week to the 23rd week, obtaining a second doctor’s approval is also necessary for the abortion. After the 23rd week, an abortion is only allowed if your life is in danger.
In Victoria, abortions may be performed up to 24 weeks into the pregnancy following the decriminalisation of abortion in 2008. Any abortions that take place past 24 weeks must be authorised by two doctors. If a doctor has a moral opposition to abortion, they must refer the patient to another doctor who has no issue with the procedure.
In Tasmania, since 2014 women or pregnant persons seeking abortion up to 16 weeks of pregnancy have only needed the consent of one medical practitioner to proceed with the procedure. For abortions past 16 weeks, approval from two doctors is necessary.
In 1998, Western Australia allowed for abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, but after that point, two doctors must agree that the procedure is necessary due to a severe medical issue. Criticism has been made for not decriminalising abortion, which is still regulated by the Criminal Code. In 2021, the Northern Territory’s abortion laws were changed to require the approval of one doctor for a termination up to 24 weeks.
In South Australia, it is permissible to undergo an abortion performed by a doctor until the 22nd week of pregnancy and 6 days. However, from the 23rd week onward, the procedure requires the approval of two doctors. They can grant their consent only if they concur that the woman’s health or mental wellbeing is at risk, if there is a need to save another fetus in the case of multiple pregnancy, or if the fetus has a significant abnormality.
If you require any legal advice for abortions or any other family law matter, ensure to contact our top family lawyers in Sydney.