SOUTH AUSTRALIA – Abortion law reform bill has first reading 

Top image: Vickie Chapman (left); Michelle Lensink

The Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020 was introduced by Hon Michelle Lensink MLC and had its first reading on 14 October 2020. Lensink has been Minister for Human Services since March 2018. The portfolio includes responsibilities for social housing, disability, communities and social inclusion, women, youth and volunteers.

South Australia Attorney-General and Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman says the legislation involves a new, highly regulated, medical model governing termination of pregnancies that removes abortion entirely from the criminal law, bringing South Australia “in line with all other Australian states and territories”. The Australian Medical Association strongly supports this legislative change.

The bill will be subject to a conscience vote in both houses. It allows a termination by a health professional up to 22 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, and allows a termination by “administering a prescription drug or by prescribing a drug” only up to 63 days of pregnancy. A termination beyond 22 weeks and 6 days is permitted if two medical practitioners think it is medically appropriate, or in an emergency to save the person’s life or to save another fetus.

In cases of conscientious objection, the objector must transfer the person’s care to a registered health practitioner who, in the practitioner’s opinion, can provide the requested service and does not have a conscientious objection.

The bill decriminalises abortion. It says a person who causes an abortion on themselves and a registered practitioner acting in accord with their profession do not incur liability. Only an “unqualified person who performs a termination on another person commits an offence, with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, and anyone who assists in doing so with a maximum penalty of five years.

SOURCES: Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020, Legislative Council No.75, 14 October 2020 ; Michelle Lensink MLC ; Women’s Agenda, by Madeline Hislop, c. 15 October 2020 ; SBS News, 14 October 2020