It’s time. Abortion is healthcare, not a crime.

July 30, 2019

Australia’s leading association of human rights lawyers has written to members of the New South Wales Parliament expressing strong support for the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 which, if passed, will remove archaic criminal penalties for abortion from the NSW Criminal Code and create a standalone healthcare Act to regulate the procedure.

 Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) President Kerry Weste said, “Abortion is currently a criminal offence in NSW, punishable by 10 years imprisonment. While abortion providers operate in NSW, they exist within an ambiguous legal space and, as a result, access to services is limited and there remains uncertainty in the medical profession and community.”

“NSW is the only Australian state yet to modernise its abortion laws and this has very real consequences for people who need to access safe and compassionate reproductive health services. The current law creates unacceptable barriers leading to significant gaps in services, particularly for victims of violence and people living in remote and rural areas.”

Ms Weste explained, “ALHR, as well as numerous other domestic and international human rights organisations, have long called for the repeal of laws prohibiting abortion as an important step in eliminating discrimination against women and addressing preventable harm caused by unsafe terminations.”

‘Indeed, ensuring access to safe and legal abortion services is part of a Australia’s international legal obligations. The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have all declared that States are obliged to provide access to safe and legal abortion services.”

“The reality is that 81% of Australians believe a woman should have the right to choose whether or not she has an abortion. Current NSW laws are archaic and not reflective of community values or of internationally recognised human rights principles. Those who seek abortions should not be treated as criminals.”

“The Bill is consistent with the recommendations of the recent Queensland Law Reform Commission’s report into termination of pregnancy laws, which itself had the benefit of evidence from multiple parliamentary inquiries. The Bill also reflects similar laws passed in other Australian states that have decriminalised abortion and regulate termination of pregnancy as a health matter, rather than a criminal one.”

“The provisions of the NSW Crimes Act which deal with abortion are outdated, unclear and inadequate. Patients and medical professionals in New South Wales deserve laws that are evidence based, fit for purpose and reflect modern reproductive healthcare. The Bill achieves these aims and will bring New South Wales in Law in line with other Australian jurisdictions”.

ALHR urges members of the NSW Parliament to support the well-being and autonomy of pregnant people in NSW by voting on favour of the more compassionate, safe and legal access to abortion offered in the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019. 

Read ALHR’s letter to NSW MPs here


 Contact: Matt Mitchell, ALHR media manager 0431 980 365.