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Emergency COVID-19 powers should remove legal barriers to abortion

A woman’s right to access a safe abortion should be upheld urgently by new powers given to the South Australian COVID-19 emergency coordinator, human rights lawyers said.

user iconNaomi Neilson 20 April 2020 Big Law
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Last week, broad powers were issued to the South Australian COVID-19 emergency state coordinator, police commissioner Grant Stevens. As part of these powers, the Human Rights Law Centre is calling for Mr Stevens to remove legal barriers for women accessing abortions.

Associate legal director Adrianne Walters called for the commissioner to override certain requirements, such as for the abortion to take place in a prescribed hospital, for only two doctors to be involved and for a woman to reside in the state for at least two months.


“During this unprecedented public health crisis, it is critical that women in South Australia have the same rights as women in the rest of Australia to safely access telehealth abortion care,” Ms Walters said. “The government’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Bill is a step towards safe access to abortion during this crisis period.”

Ms Walters said early medication abortions can be provided safely via telehealth services, which [are] supported by medical professionals and prevent women from travelling and then further risking unnecessary exposure to the COVID-19 infection.

“South Australia’s outdated abortion laws force many women to travel long distances and interact with more health professionals than is medically needed,” Ms Walters said.

“The laws were already causing unjustified hardships, especially for women in a regional and remote area, and are now also inconsistent with COVID-19 public health measures.”

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