Abortion Laws in Australia

As the Australian Government does not legislate on abortion laws, the States and Territories have their own laws. Even though in some states abortion remains under criminal law, judicial rulings mean that abortion is regarded as legal if certain conditions are met. These vary slightly from state to state. The father is not required to consent and may not legally prevent an abortion. In all jurisdictions, the woman must give informed consent.

 

The following is a brief summary of pertinent information for each state.  It is not legal advice.

 

 

Abortion Law in the Australian Capital Territory

 

Abortion as a criminal offence was repealed by the Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Act 2002. Abortion is permitted by any registered medical practitioner in a medical facility or part of a medical facility approved by the Minister for Health. Every person has the right to refuse to assist an abortion. Full-term abortions on demand are legal in the ACT as there are no gestational limits.

 

 

Abortion Law in New South Wales

 

Abortion still comes under the criminal code but following the Levine ruling 1971, abortion is deemed lawful if a doctor considers that the pregnancy puts at risk the mother’s physical or mental health. Social and economic considerations may be considered as well as medical.  Those under 14 years require the consent of a parent, guardian or an order of the Supreme Court. If a doctor considers a 14 or 15 year old mature enough, she may give informed consent. Abortion may be performed up to 20 weeks. The Kirby ruling of 1994 extended the period during which health concerns might be considered to any period during the woman’s life.

 

 

Abortion Law in Queensland

 

Like NSW, abortion in Queensland comes under the criminal code but a judicial ruling (McGuire ruling 1986) means that it is considered lawful if a doctor believes that there is a serious risk to the woman’s physical or mental health (other than those which are normally present in pregnancy and birth).  As well, if the foetus has a condition which is considered inconsistent with life, an abortion may be performed. A consultation with a family doctor is necessary and an abortion may be performed up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

 

 

Abortion Law in South Australia

 

Since 1969, abortion is legal in South Australia if two doctors agree that it is necessary to protect the life or physical or mental health of the woman or if the child is likely to be born with a serious abnormality. It must be performed in a hospital and the patient must be a resident of South Australia. In an emergency, these provisions may be waived.

 

 

Abortion Law in Tasmania

 

Abortion on request is available up to 16 weeks of pregnancy.After 16 weeks, a doctor can provide a termination with the woman’s consent if the doctor reasonably believes that continuing the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the woman than if the pregnancy was terminated. The doctor must consult a second doctor who agrees with this. At least one of the doctors must specialise in obstetrics or gynaecology. In assessing the risk of injury, doctors must consider the woman’s physical, psychological, economic and social circumstances. A woman does not need to be referred to counselling or referred to the termination provider by another doctor.

 

 

Abortion Law in the Northern Territory

 

Abortion is legal up to 14 weeks if agreed to by two doctors, one of whom must be an obstetrician/ gynaecologist. Doctors must be satisfied that it is necessary for the woman’s physical or mental health or because of a serious foetal abnormality. It must be performed surgically in a hospital.  New legislation has been presented in parliament (Jan 2017).

 

 

Abortion Law in Western Australia

 

Abortion up to 20 weeks is legal with informed consent but with restrictions for those under 16. Counselling is given by a medical practitioner other than the one performing the abortion. After 20 weeks, it only justified if two doctors from an appointed panel of six deem that there are strong indications of serious medical or psychiatric conditions of the mother, or foetal abnormalities. Informed consent is needed and the procedure must be performed in a facility approved by the Minister.

 

 

Abortion Law in Victoria

 

Abortion up to 24 weeks is legal for any reason if carried out by a registered medical practitioner. After 24 weeks, a registered medical practitioner may carry out an abortion if he/she reasonably believes the abortion is appropriate in all circumstances and has consulted another registered medical practitioner. They must consider a) all relevant medical circumstances and b) the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.