Time for SA and WA to reform abortion laws and respect women’s equality

Time for SA and WA to reform abortion laws and respect women’s equality

Western Australia and South Australia must decriminalise abortion and put in place laws that promote safe access to reproductive healthcare, the Human Rights Law Centre said in submissions to separate reviews in South Australia and Western Australia.

Adrianne Walters, a Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said both states’ laws must finally respect women’s autonomy and reflect modern community values and medical practice.

“Now is the time for all Australian governments to demonstrate the value they place on women’s lives and ensure that women have the freedom to decide what is right for their body,” said Walters.

South Australia’s 50 year old abortion laws make it a criminal offence to terminate a pregnancy in certain circumstances. The South Australian Law Reform Institute is undertaking a comprehensive review of South Australia’s outdated laws and considering how best to decriminalise abortion.

In Western Australia, the Department of Health has invited feedback on a proposal to introduce safe access zones around premises providing abortion services. However abortion remains criminalised in Western Australia in some circumstances and is causing hardship for women in distressing circumstances.

“It’s absolutely shameful that in 2019, women in Western Australia and South Australia still fear being prosecuted for accessing a safe medical procedure. The law should support all people to make the best possible decision for their own health," said Walters.

Both states have been urged to introduce safe access zones outside abortion clinics, which would make it an offence to harass, film or intimidate patients or staff within 150 metres of an abortion clinic. The High Court upheld Victoria and Tasmania’s safe access zone laws earlier this year.

“Anti-choice activists outside clinics cause serious distress, fear and anxiety to patients and staff.  Right now, women seeking reproductive healthcare in Western Australia and South Australia are being targeted and harassed because their governments have failed to protect them. This must end now,” said Walters.

Read the Human Rights Law Centre’s submission to the South Australian Law Reform Institute

Read the Human Rights Law Centre’s submission to the WA Department of Health

Media contact:

Michelle Bennett, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519