find the latest legal job
Corporate/Commercial Lawyers (2-5 years PAE)
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Specialist commercial law firm · Long-term career progression
View details
Graduate Lawyer / Up to 1.5 yr PAE Lawyer
Category: Personal Injury Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Mentoring Opportunity in Regional QLD · Personal Injury Law
View details
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Full time · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Sydney NSW
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
In-house Legal Counsel & Commercial Lawyers
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· Providing lawyers with flexibility and control over when they work, how they work and who they work for.
View details
NSW Parliament pressed to reform ‘archaic’ abortion laws

NSW Parliament pressed to reform ‘archaic’ abortion laws

A group of lawyers are calling on the NSW Parliament to pass a bill to reform abortion laws, which they say have hampered women’s access to health services and violated fundamental human rights for too long.

The possibility of legal access to abortion services in NSW has been flagged by Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) as an important step in safeguarding women’s rights.

Calling for support of a NSW bill introduced earlier this month, ALHR president Benedict Coyne said reforms to bring laws in line with community values were long overdue.

He stressed that for women seeking an abortion, existing laws in NSW did not safeguard the protection of their fundamental rights.

“The current NSW laws are archaic and not reflective of community values or of internationally recognised human rights principles.

“Those who seek abortions should not be treated as criminals and the majority of Australians recognise that our laws need to change to reflect this,” Mr Coyne said.  

The ALHR is especially concerned about the harassment of patients attending reproductive health clinics by outspoken ‘anti-choice’ protestors.

Certain fundamental rights relating to privacy, personal autonomy and sexual health are not assured under NSW’s current legislative regime, where abortion is criminalised under sections 82 to 84 of the Crimes Act.

No pregnancy termination services are available on demand in NSW and the legality of the procedure, while allowed, remains ambiguous.

The ALHR is urging NSW MPs to back the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016, which would remove the criminality attached to abortion by state legislation. The bill introduces additional provisions to the Summary Offences Act to create a 150-metre safety zone around clinics, and will require doctors refer patients on to another practitioner should they take conscientious issue with pregnancy termination.

If the bill passes, NSW will be the last jurisdiction in Australia to guarantee safe access to the basic health service by removing abortion from the Crimes Act.

Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT have all enacted legislation legalising the medical procedure, and proposals to reform relevant laws in Queensland are presently before Parliament.

“NSW and Queensland are the only remaining states that do not provide for legal abortions. Every other state and territory has passed laws that provide legal access to abortion services,” Mr Coyne said.

Speaking at a panel hosted by ALHR in Sydney this week, health and medical lawyer Catherine Henry offered an overview of the chequered political history of abortion laws. She described the state of affairs in NSW as “fragile” and highlighted that as recently as 10 years ago, the situation was much the same across Australia.

“Decriminalisation legislation [for abortion] has now been passed within the last 10 years in the ACT, Victoria and most recently Tasmania. Until those three states enacted the decriminalisation statutes, there was a crazy patchwork of disparate legislative provisions. Every state had a different form of words and it was entirely unsatisfactory,” Ms Henry said.

“South Australia and Western Australia have much more liberal access provisions,” she said.

Using the example of the availability of the abortion drug mifepristone (RU486), Ms Henry suggested Australia’s performance, compared with other OECD countries, has been abysmal.

“Well before 2012, when RU486 was finally approved by the TGA [Therapeutic Goods Administration], women in North America, the UK, much of Europe, Russia, China, Turkey and New Zealand had already got that sorted,” she said.

Critically, Ms Henry said Australia’s lacking legal protections foster a culture where a very common medical procedure and the many women who rely on these services are cast in a criminal light. Being tainted by the ‘criminality’ of abortion is not only unjust for many Australian women but in direct contravention of their universal human rights, she added.

“There was a period after [1971] of prosecutorial aggression at the direction of the governments of the day and this was finally resolved by a deal struck between police and abortion activists. We’ve had a lengthy period of relative and uneasy stability since. 

“The bottom line is that women and doctors, even though rare, they have been charged, and it very much depends on the political will of the government of the time,” Ms Henry said.

The NSW bill's second round parliamentary debate has been scheduled for later this month.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

NSW Parliament pressed to reform ‘archaic’ abortion laws
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Papua New Guinea flag
Dec 14 2017
World-first mining case launched in PNG
Citizens of Papua New Guinea have launched landmark legal proceedings against the country’s govern...
Dec 14 2017
Punishing offenders twice pointless, politicians warned
The president of the Law Society of NSW has warned legislators from other states about adopting cont...
Dec 13 2017
Young humanitarian lawyer California-bound
A young Australian lawyer will be travelling to the US next year for a prestigious nine-month study ...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...