South Australia is a step closer to changing its controversial abortion laws, which passed the state’s Lower House overnight.
The Termination of Pregnancy Bill was debated until 2am on Friday morning when the new legislation passed with 29 votes to 15.
Under the proposed law, abortion will be decriminalised — making it a health issue — and will also allow later-term pregnancies to be terminated under special conditions.
Those conditions are applicable for women who are up to 22 weeks and six days pregnant who will need two medical practitioners to agree the termination is necessary to save the life of the woman or another foetus, or if there is a significant risk of injury to physical or mental health.
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman took to social media with the news.
She said it was a “historic day” for South Australia women.
“I congratulate all those who worked on this Bill and the parliament for endorsing this important piece of legislation,” her tweet read.
The bill, which has changed a number of times since being introduced, will now be taken back to the Upper House to receive final approval before the laws change.
Under current laws, a woman can only lawfully have an abortion – at any stage – if the woman receives the approval of two medical practitioners.
Both of those doctors must agree that continuing the pregnancy would: increase the risk to the pregnant woman’s life; or create a greater risk of physical or mental injury to the woman; or that there is a substantial risk the child would be born with serious physical or mental abnormalities.
It is illegal for an abortion to be performed that does not meet that criteria, and can result in criminal prosecution – although it is very rare.
The proposed legislation sparked mass debate and prompted a number of rallies across Adelaide, both for and against the reforms.
South Australia will be the last Australian jurisdiction to decriminalise abortion once the bill is passed in the Upper House.
Laws were changed in October 2019 in NSW, allowing pregnancy to be terminated by a medical practitioner before 22 weeks of gestation.
However, abortions can be performed on a woman who is more than 22 weeks as long as there are sufficient grounds for the termination and a second medical practitioner is in agreeance.
In Victoria, the Abortion Law Reform Act was introduced in 2008 which states that doctors can perform abortions on women no more than 24 weeks pregnant.
For women who are past that gestation period, they need two doctors to agree that the abortion is appropriate.
Abortion laws changed in Queensland in December 2018, allowing women who are up to 22 weeks pregnant to request a termination for any reason without disclosing the reason to their doctor.
Like other jurisdictions, two medical practitioners must agree termination is appropriate after 22 weeks of pregnancy.
In Western Australia, it is legal to abort before 20 weeks gestation by a medical practitioner and after that period, two doctors — who are members of a panel appointed by the Minister — need to agree that the woman, or the foetus, have a severe medical condition that justifies the procedure.
It also needs to be performed in an approved facility.
Laws are similar in Tasmania, where women who are 16 weeks can abort their pregnancies by a medical practitioner.
Once they pass that gestation period, they can terminate as long as the medical practitioner believes the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the woman and has consulted another medical practitioner who agrees.
Under the Reproductive Health Act 2013, one of those two medical practitioners needs to specialise in obstetrics or gynaecology.
Laws changed in the Northern Territory in July 2017, allowing abortions to be performed up until 14 weeks gestation by a doctor.
A woman can also abort up until 23 weeks but will need the approval of two doctors.