Women's Rights

Every person has the right to make decisions about their own body. Australian laws and policies must promote the health, dignity and reproductive freedom of all women. We are working to achieve this by:

  • Promoting reproductive freedom across Australia by decriminalising abortion and ensuring new laws promote the right of every person to make decisions about their bodies and lives.

  • Securing safe access zones laws around Australia to protect women from anti-choice harassment and abuse when trying to access reproductive healthcare.

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.

However, abortion is still in the criminal statute books in NSW, SA and WA – a recognised form of sex discrimination in international human rights law. The criminalisation of abortion harms women by making it harder to access safe and compassionate reproductive healthcare.

Trans men and gender diverse people are also harmed by laws that restrict access to reproductive healthcare, which is further compounded by other forms of gender-based discrimination.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 impact

  • 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 the Victorian Parliament to pass safe access zone 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.