Women's Rights

The current state of reproductive rights in Australia

Every person should have the freedom to make decisions about their bodies and to safely and privately access healthcare. Yet many abortion laws around Australia perpetuate inequality between men and women by restricting the right of women to make important decisions about their bodies and by failing to ensure sufficient safeguards to guarantee practical access to abortion services.

Abortion is still in the criminal statute books in NSW, SA and WA – a recognised form of sex discrimination in international human rights law.

In 2018, abortion was removed from the criminal code in Queensland. Progress has also been made in the NT, but the new laws still arbitrarily limit access to abortion. In Tasmania, some women have to fly interstate because affordable abortion services no longer exist.

Elsewhere, protections that do exist are under threat – safe access zone laws in Victoria and Tasmania are being challenged in the High Court by anti-abortionists. Safe access zones stop the harmful harassment, abuse and intimidation of patients and staff by anti-abortionists directly outside abortion clinics and are crucial to ensuring that women can access reproductive health care safely, privately and with dignity.

Our mission

  • Decriminalise abortion and ensure new laws respect a woman’s right to make decisions about their bodies and lives.

    We will use the Queensland process to generate momentum for reform in other jurisdictions, particularly NSW and SA.

  • Ensure women can safely and privately access abortion services

    • We will ensure the modernisation of abortion laws includes effective safe access zones.

    • We will defend safe access zone laws in the High Court.

    • We will investigate legal options to ensure that governments provide affordable abortion services, particularly in Tasmania.

Our impact

  • We played a key role in the pushing reform of Queensland’s woefully outdated abortion laws, with a Parliament passing legislation in October 2018. The reforms will ensure all Queenslanders have the right to safe and legal access to abortion.

    The Human Rights Law Centre worked with Pro Choice Queensland, Children by Choice and Fair Agenda to provide evidence to a parliamentary inquiry, influence undecided MPs to support the bill and engage in strategic public advocacy.

  • In 2015, we acted for the East Melbourne Fertility Control Clinic in its Supreme Court bid to end decades-long harassment of women by anti-abortionists out the front of its premises. The case prompted the Melbourne City Council to publicly condemn the harassment and call on the Victorian Government for reform.

    The evidence we gathered and advocacy we undertook with MPs and in the media, was crucial in prompting the Victorian Parliament to pass safe access zones laws. The laws have been effective at stopping two decades of harassment, allowing 5,000 patients per year and 15 staff to safely access the clinic, and stopping harassment at other Victorian clinics.

  • Our strategic political engagement and public advocacy contributed significantly to the passing of safe access zone laws in NSW in June 2018, for which the HRLC was acknowledged in Parliament.

  • We have successfully worked with women’s rights, medical and campaign groups in the NT and Tasmania to decriminalise abortion laws and ensure safe access to reproductive health services.