South Australia decriminalised abortion more than a year ago, but legal hurdles continue to put women at risk

South Australia decriminalised abortion more than a year ago, but legal hurdles continue to put women at risk
Picture Source: Legal Abortion, Montserrat/Flickr, 2021

20-05-2022

Idil Igdir

Women’s Rights Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence.

In 2021, South Australia changed its restrictive approach to abortion rights and made a significant change by decriminalising abortion. However, even 15 months after South Australia passed its new abortion laws, legal hurdles still stand in the way of women, as the laws are yet to be enacted. Doctors are constantly urging the South Australian government to implement this historic bill decriminalising abortion which should have come into force by now.

In Australia, abortion began to be decriminalised with Western Australia in 1998. And now with South Australia, the latest jurisdiction to join the list, abortion has been completely decriminalised in all states and territories as of 2021. That is, abortion is no longer subject to the criminal code and now falls under health laws. Nevertheless, without enacting the new bill, women are doomed to struggle to access abortion through the old legislation, which puts their health and even their lives at risk. In light of these constant barriers, Dr. Brian Peat told InDaily that women are still getting abortions, it’s just through the old way, which means for women in the country they have to fly down to Adelaide and face a significant waiting list” (Burrows J., 2022). 

The Termination of Pregnancy Act 2021 was passed in South Australia in a historic vote in March and paved the way for the possibility of abortion up to 22 weeks and six days of gestation. After that time, the door remains open only if a medical practitioner consults with another practitioner and both are of the opinion that the procedure is medically appropriate. Moreover, as of January 2021, a 150-meter safe access zone is provided around abortion clinics in South Australia to prevent groups from protesting and putting pressure on women.

Ultimately, access to abortion is of great importance in terms of women's health problems and sexual and reproductive healthcare. Therefore, it is an undeniable need to ensure that it is properly implemented in any country without being criminalized and hindered. 

  • According to the latest figures, “one in three Australian women will have an abortion in their lifetimes and there are an estimated 88,000 abortions provided in Australia every year” (Matthews S., 2022). 

Sources and Further Reading : 

Amnesty International. (2022, May 13). ABORTION RIGHTS IN AUSTRALIA AND WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT ROE V WADE. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.amnesty.org.au/abortion-rights-in-australia-and-why-you-should-care-about-roe-v-wade/

Burrows J,. (2022, May 19). In Light of the Rode V. Wade Crisis, What Are Australia’s State-by-State Abortion Laws?. The Latch. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://thelatch.com.au/australia-abortion-laws/

Matthew S,. (2022, May 13). Australia’s politicians must commit to upholding abortion rights. Women’s Agenda. May 19, 2022, from https://womensagenda.com.au/life/health/australias-politicians-must-commit-to-upholding-abortion-rights/

Richards S,. (2022, March 3). SA abortion law reform stalled one year after passing. InDaily. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://indaily.com.au/news/2022/03/03/sa-abortion-law-reform-stalled-one-year-after-passing/