Abortion has finally been legalised in Queensland, following a historic vote in parliament that will see the law changed for the first time in 119 years. People in the state will now be able to request an abortion up to 22 weeks into the gestation period. An abortion will also be allowed to take place after 22 weeks in the event that two separate medical practitioners, including the one who is performing the termination, agree that “in all circumstances” it should be performed. “Safe access zones” of 150 metres will be also put in place around termination and fertility clinics.
All MPs were given a conscience vote, and the motion passed through state parliament with a margin of 50 to 41. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk celebrated the change to the legislation, suggesting that the Termination of Pregnancy Act 2018 is long overdue and will finally give people the opportunity to access abortions without fear, the ABC reports.
Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath also declared that the change in legislature would bring Queensland into the 21st century.
"I am so proud, as the Attorney-General of this state, as a woman, as a mother, to witness this significant reform which provides long-needed clarity," she said. "We've done this for our mothers, our sisters, our daughters, our friends. For people who have fought long and hard for the right to autonomy over their own bodies.
"Termination is never an easy option for any woman, and no one ever makes this decision lightly, but all people across Queensland should have the right to make the decision for themselves and without fear of criminal prosecution."
Given that abortion in Australia is a matter of state rather than national law, the grounds on which it’s permitted—as well as the cost and availability of the procedure—depend on where in the country you live. In New South Wales it’s still considered a criminal offence, and both people and doctors who take part in a termination run the risk of criminal charges and up to 10 years’ imprisonment, unless special circumstances apply.
In Victoria, abortion is legal in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, after which the approval of two separate medical practitioners is required. In Tasmania this period is 16 weeks—although a lack of relevant health professionals means people seeking a termination are often referred to Melbourne, as the ABC reports. Both states also have safe access zones of 150 metres established around termination and fertility clinics.
Abortion is legal up to 28 weeks in South Australia, but only in the event that two doctors agree the person’s physical or mental health is at risk, or that there is a strong chance the child will be born with a serious abnormality. Any onewho pursues an “unlawful” abortion runs the risk of being charged.
In Western Australia it’s legal to have an abortion up to 20 weeks, after which the person needs approval from at least two doctors who must agree that the parent or their foetus face a “serious medical condition” in order for the procedure to be justified. In the Northern Territory abortion is legal up to 23 weeks, after which the person’s life has to be endangered for the procedure to be justified. Approval by one doctor is required for a termination up to 14 weeks; for any terminations after that period, two doctors need to give their approval.
Abortion is completely legal in the ACT, provided it’s performed by a medical doctor in an approved medical facility. The ACT Greens have also made a push for people in the state to be able to perform at-home medical abortions, using drugs that they’d be able to order over the phone or through their GP.
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates that more than 80,000 abortions take place in Australia every year. Abortion education service Children by Choice estimates that Queensland is responsible for between 10,000 and 14,000 of those terminations.