Abortion Now Legal in Every State in Australia

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The gestational age for an abortion has been increased from 20 to 23 weeks in Western Australia.

Abortion is now legally accessible across every state of Australia after new laws in Western Australia (WA) came into force on March 27.

The Abortion Legislation Reform Bill 2023 (pdf) removes barriers to abortion health care in WA.

The gestational age for an abortion has also been increased from 20 weeks to 23 weeks under the new laws.

After this stage, later-term abortions are still possible but will require approval by two doctors.

“New section 202MC enables one medical practitioner to perform an abortion on a patient with a foetus of gestational age of not more than 23 weeks,” an explanatory document on the legislation states.

In addition, the number of health practitioners that are required to be involved in abortion has been lowered from two to one.

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Doctors can still object to abortion under the laws, but they must refer the patient to another practitioner or provide information on where they can access abortion (pdf).
“The gestational limit at which additional requirements apply has been changed from 20 to 23 weeks to best reflect current clinical practice and better align with other jurisdictions,” the government said.

Attorney General John Quigley said the new laws “decriminalise abortion, which brings Western Australia in line with other Australian jurisdictions.

“This reflects the fact that abortion care is part of everyday healthcare for women,” Mr. Quigley said.

WA Premier Roger Cook said the significant reforms will make it easier for women to access vital services regardless of where they live.

“My government is committed to improving access to healthcare right across our state, and tackling the inequity faced by women in regional and remote WA,” Mr. Cook said.

Health minister Amber Jade-Sanderson added, “Today we welcome important and historic reform that protects a woman’s right to access a critical aspect of healthcare—safe and accessible abortion.

“I would like to thank Western Australian health professionals and the community for their overwhelming support for this abortion reform.”

Women’s Interest Minister Sue Ellery explained the laws would stop Western Australians from needing to travel to another state for abortion procedures.

“These laws bring WA in line with other jurisdictions, eliminating the need to travel interstate for care,” Ms. Ellery said.

“Our modernised abortion laws will reduce barriers for women seeking an abortion, which is a fundamental component of women’s health.”

Queensland Premier Steven Miles also weighed in on the news on March 27. He said on X (formerly Twitter), “Abortion is now legal in every state and territory. Let’s keep it that way.”

“Congratulations to Western Australia, where decriminalisation has just come into effect,” he said.

Opposition to the Legislation

Liberal Party Member of the Legislative Council Nick Goiran said abortion laws undermine the right to life during a debate on the reforms in August 2023.

“To make it very plain at the beginning of this contribution, my aspiration is that in Western Australia a woman who finds herself in an unexpected pregnancy is surrounded by so much support that the idea of an abortion is unthinkable for her,” Mr. Goiran said (pdf).

“Abortion laws undermine the inherent right to life and pose a moral dilemma that challenges the very fabric of who we are as a society,” Mr. Goiran said during a parliamentary debate.

“These laws send a message that life is disposable and that we can pick and choose who deserves to live and who does not.”

Nurses to Prescribe Abortion Drugs

The Western Australian reforms will also allow nurse practitioners, and approved midwives to prescribe abortion drugs, the government said.

The news follows Queensland’s passing of legislation that will allow nurses and midwives to prescribe the abortion drug MS-2 Step in early March.

The drug, MS-2 Step, can be used to terminate a pregnancy up to 63 days from gestation.

During the debate, Minister for Health Shannon Fentiman said she was proud to be making reforms a reality for Queensland women and girls.

“I am proud that we are enhancing access to medical termination of pregnancy, especially for people who live in rural and regional Queensland,” Ms. Fentiman said (pdf).

She said access to safe termination-of-pregnancy care is “a human right” essential for sexual and reproductive autonomy, and the proposed changes allow more health practitioners to perform medical terminations of pregnancy.

However, Liberal National Party Shadow Minister for Health Ros Bates said the decision to include registered nurses goes against recommendations in a Labor-run Senate committee report which was the catalyst of this bill.

Ms. Bates said she was genuinely concerned about women’s safety risks in rural and regional Queensland.

“Particularly in rural and regional Queensland—it does not matter where you are in Queensland—no midwife or registered nurse can perform a dilation and curettage. No midwife or registered nurse can perform a laparotomy or laparoscopy for an ectopic pregnancy,” she said.

“The government’s priority should be establishing and maintaining effective and well-resourced health services across these geographies, getting the fundamentals right and then expanding. To do the opposite risks patient safety.”

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