Rally outside US consulate, Perth, June 2022
Women and medical practitioners have been asked to have their say on Western Australia’s decades-old abortion laws, which are among the toughest in the country, as the state government prepares to overhaul the legislation.
A four-week consultation began earlier this month with the release of a discussion paper. The changes on the table include fully decriminalising abortion, increasing the upper time limit from 20 to 24 weeks, abolishing mandatory counselling, and scrapping the need for one or more GP referrals.
Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said new legislation will be introduced in early 2023. “We want to hear back from the community, primarily (from) women who’ve experienced the challenges of the current laws, and also practitioners who have to work under the current framework,” she said. “We want to hear what their experience has been like and how they think abortion should look in Western Australia. This is not a debate about whether abortion is legal or not. It is. Full stop. What we want to do is make sure that it is accessible for women and safe in Western Australia (WA). The privacy, safety and dignity of women seeking access to abortion care will be paramount in this legislation.”
The Minister said no West Australian woman should have to travel interstate (within Australia) for an abortion. It is her hope that the new legislation will remove unnecessary barriers. “Some of those barriers that have been highlighted to us over the years are the requirement for a GP referral when there are a number of GPs who won’t refer on this issue… he ministerial panel and mandatory counselling versus the option for counselling.”
WA was the first jurisdiction in the country to remove most criminal penalties for those seeking abortions, and doctors who provide it, in 1998. However, since then, WA’s laws regulating abortion have fallen behind other states and territories.
“I think the overturning of Roe v Wade in the US has drawn a lot of awareness around the need to not only consider our laws, but protect our laws and ensure they’re fit for purpose,” said Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk. “Any changes to the legislation would still place restrictions on who could carry out an abortion in WA. It would still be an offence [sic] to carry out an abortion if you’re not a registered medical practitioner.”
SOURCE: ABC.Net, by Cason Ho, 20 November 2022 + PHOTO by Rebecca Trigger/ABC News