family law

Abortion in Australia: Is Abortion Legal in Australia?

SCB Legal |

31 August, 2018

woman holding a placard about abortion

Table of Contents

The legal issues regarding Abortion in Australia are more complicated than most people think. The ABC recently reported that in Australia, legal abortion varies from state to state. No national abortion law exists. However, in “every state, abortion is legal to protect the life and health of a woman”.

Aside from questions pertaining to national laws and state laws, abortion is supposed to be legal to protect a woman’s health and life. It was extremely alarming to read that in Queensland, “rape, incest and foetal abnormality are not grounds for a lawful abortion”.

Australia’s Abortion Laws and the Queensland Criminal Code

According to Queensland law, abortion is regarded as a crime, under sections 224, 225 and 226 of the criminal code. This law was written in the 19th century and has not been amended. If a woman has an ‘unlawful’ abortion, she can face “up to seven years in jail”.

According to the Queensland Criminal Code, any person assisting a woman in the termination of a pregnancy can be jailed for 14 years.

It really makes one question Australian laws and many would argue, archaic laws that are in desperate need of reform. Even citizens of Ireland voted to repeal the ban on abortion a few months ago.

In June 2018, the Queensland law commission sent a report that contained 28 recommendations to the attorney-general. Thankfully the government accepted the recommendations. The termination of pregnancy bill 2018 will be debated in parliament, October 2018.

Australian Abortion Laws and Women’s Rights

There is the fundamental question of a woman having the right to choose what happens to her own body.

How can Australia, a ‘democratic’ country have the legal right to decide what happens to a woman’s body? In addition, if the overwhelming majority of its citizens support abortion rights, why isn’t abortion legal Australia-wide?

recent poll, revealed that 85% of Australians voted pro-choice. This begs the question, why are Australian abortion laws not representative of the vast majority of Australians?


The Australian Legal System and Parliament’s Abortion Views

The legal system is supposed to remain impartial, hence the division between church and state. However, there are many politicians who are pro life and very vocal on the matter, like Liberal National MP George Christensen.

The Queensland MP recently attended a pro life rally and criticised his own party for being pro abortion. In Queensland there is a greater number of pro choice supporters than in any other Australian state.

Karen Coleman’s, The Politics of Abortion in Australia explored reasons why abortion rights are not recognised on a national level. Abortion struggle on a parliamentary, party and electoral level has been attributed to “electoral and party politics and considerations of politicians”.

Australian Law Courts and High Court Justices

When we consider Australian courts, many Supreme Court justices are still white males in their ‘60’s. There have been 48 men and 5 women appointed as high court justices. Should a select group of mostly men have the right to dictate women’s rights?

Imagine if the Australia legal system began dictating whether a man could get a vasectomy. While an abortion and a vasectomy are different, many proponents of the pro life debate, consider that life begins at the time of conception. Therefore, from a philosophical perspective, there is definitely a correlation between the two.

Medical Abortion Australia: the Abortion Pill, RU486

U486, the abortion pill was made available to women throughout Europe many decades ago. However, in Australia, it was technically made available, approximately 10 years ago.

A woman can only obtain the abortion pill from a doctor who includes medical abortions in their practice. Only gynaecologists, obstetricians, doctors with Authorised Prescriber status and GPs trained by the license holder are able to prescribe mifepristone (the abortion pill).

There are a number of problems with this stipulation, as it relies on the doctor being willing to prescribe the abortion pill. There is an estimated 30,000 GPs and gynaecologists working in Australia. However, a recent study revealed that “only 1244 doctors have become certified prescribers” of the abortion pill.  

If the law was more progressive and provided incentives or benefits for the doctors, maybe more would become authorised prescribers.

Irrespective of whether you are pro abortion or anti abortion, the underlying question remains. Should Australian Law dictate the rights of Australians, especially when Australians passionately state their preferences?

If you’re seeking a Sydney law firm to passionately defend your legal rights, contact SCB Legal

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