A new bill has been introduced to the Western Australian parliament that will reform the state’s outdated abortion laws.
WA was the first state to decriminalise abortions in 1998, but the laws have not been updated since then – and include many compromises that were required to pass the initial law.
The legislative changes will make it easier for women to access abortions earlier, and bring WA’s laws in line with other Australian jurisdictions.
“Women in this State have a right to make decisions over their bodies. These laws will enable women to make those decisions with dignity,” said Women’s Interests Minister Sue Ellery
“Abortion is a critical component of women’s healthcare and no woman should be forced to travel interstate or risk her own health because she can’t access an abortion.”
Abortion will be removed from the Criminal Code, and instead included in the Public Health Act 2016, reflecting the fact that abortion access is part of everyday health care for women.
One of the major changes within the bill will be increasing the gestational limit from 20 to 23 weeks, as well as removing the requirement of a panel of doctors to approve abortions beyond that point. Instead, the woman’s doctor will just need to consult with and gain the agreement of one other doctor.
The bill will also remove mandatory counselling provisions, and remove the requirement for Ministerial approval for a health service to perform late abortions. Health practitioners will be able to conscientiously object to performing abortions, but will be required to transfer the patient’s care or provide information on where to access that care.
During public consultations last year, key health stakeholders were unanimous in their support to increase the gestational limit from 20 weeks, as well as overwhelming community support for change.
“The introduction of these historic reforms to Parliament is a significant moment for women in this State, who deserve fair, equal and timely access to legal medical services,” Premier Roger Cook said.
“It is unacceptable that WA women face greater barriers in accessing what is a critical health care service, and the extensive consultation undertaken confirms that health professionals and the public overwhelmingly agree.”
“Today is a significant day for women in Western Australia, with the introduction of modernised abortion laws to State Parliament,” added Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson.
“It can be particularly difficult for women in regional and remote WA where access to primary care providers is limited and where access to care is time critical and I look forward to fixing this inequity.”
Image Credit: Amber-Jade Sanderson via Facebook