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Abortion law reform in SA casts the focus on WA

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) has commended South Australia for passing legislation to decriminalise abortion, whilst also bringing Western Australia’s abortion laws under scrutiny. 

user iconJess Feyder 11 July 2022 The Bar
Adrianne Walter
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The Termination of Pregnancy Act 2021 was legislated in South Australia last Thursday (7 July), more than 15 months after being passed by Parliament. 

The new laws see abortion being completely removed from South Australia’s criminal laws. The HRLC described it as a “massive win for reproductive rights”, saying it will “support more equitable access to abortion care across the state”.

HRLC’s legal director Adrianne Walters said: “It’s been a long, long time coming, but finally, abortion has been decriminalised in South Australia. This is a historic moment for South Australia.


“The law coming into effect represents a huge win for the right of all people to decide what happens to their own bodies.

“Abortion is healthcare, and access to abortion is a critical human right. Now, that right is much better protected in South Australia. 

“This would not have happened without the determination of many health workers, politicians, lawyers, community advocates and in particular, the tireless work of the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition.”

Laws regulating abortion vary drastically between states and territories, with Western Australia’s laws being the most restrictive in the nation. 

Western Australia is now the only state in Australia that has not properly decriminalised abortion, with abortion access regulated as an exception.

Women seeking an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy must face a panel of six medical practitioners — two must agree that either the mother or foetus has a serious medical condition justifying the procedure. This has led to women being forced to travel interstate to have the procedure carried out.

Western Australia’s abortion laws date back to 1998, and the HRLC is calling on Western Australia’s government to catch up with the rest of Australia.

“Now it is time for the McGowan government in Western Australia to step up and finally decriminalise abortion,” said the HRLC, “and remove discriminatory and unnecessary legal barriers that deny pregnant people the right to make medical decisions about their bodies”. 

Pressure on Western Australia’s government comes in the wake of the “devastating overturning of Roe V Wade by the US Supreme Court”. 

Ms Walters warns us to remain vigilant; “what happened in the US had not happened overnight”.

Bit by bit, anti-choice politicians, campaigners, lawyers and citizens sought to erode reproductive rights, she stated.

Recently, we’ve seen anti-choice politicians around Australia borrow from the US anti-abortion playbook to try to thwart legislative reforms, she stated.

“It shows us we must never stand still when it comes to promoting reproductive rights in Australia,” Ms Walters said.