Reproductive rights

The Reproductive Rights group focuses on legislation that gives women access to reproductive services including safe and affordable abortion, autonomy over their own bodies and related women’s health issues

Australian women’s reproductive rights remain highly restricted by State and Territory law in many states. Women are still denied autonomy over their own bodies and their reproductive choices can even be subject to criminal prosecution. Abortion laws must be reformed to reflect the view of Australian women, the wider community and the current clinical practice. The affordability and accessibility of abortion throughout the country and the availability to women in rural and remote communities are major concerns.

2017 Wrap Up

Abortion is still in the Criminal Code in NSW. Decisions under case law mean that women are able to access abortion lawfully. However retention of abortion in the Criminal Code marginalises doctors and clinics providing abortion, potentially shames women seeking abortion and seriously constrains availability in rural and regional areas. This means that most services are confined to relatively expensive private clinics, rather than public hospitals and facilities.

In May 2017 a Bill by Mehreen Faruqi (Greens MP) to decriminalise abortion was defeated in the NSW Legislative Council. WEL anticipates that in 2018 Penny Sharpe, a Labor MP, will put a Bill to establish exclusion zones around abortion clinics in NSW.

Spurred by the Faruqi and Sharpe Bills, as well as by the narrow failure in 2014 of the Bill known as Zoe’s Law (which if passed would have established ‘foetal personhood’), WEL organised an inaugural Decriminalisation of Abortion Roundtable on October 2016. Members there requested that WEL continue to support the Roundtable as a directions setting forum. The aim of the Roundtable is to develop a campaign to decriminalise abortion and to improve access for women to abortion services. We want legislation that will free women, doctors, nurses and midwives from any threat of criminal prosecution for what is now a normal medical procedure in NSW and ensure women have safe access to facilities and services. 

Chaired by Wendy McCarthy OA, the Roundtable has met regularly during 2017, as a coalition of peak groups. These include women’s health, medical and legal experts. Intensive work is ongoing on building alliances, drafting a framework and principles for law reform, mapping the context, polling, staged communications and strategic messaging. The Roundtable has formed a small and focussed  Strategy Group to lead campaign planning. The WEL Abortion Action Group (WELAAG) will also contribute to implementation of the Plan and Strategy in 2018. Members of the Round Table and WELAAG are also meeting with MPs and broader community groups and organisations.

This WEL campaign will launch in 2018 with the aim of securing community and political support to legislate to decriminalise abortion. To seed the campaign WEL members have set up a donations based fund. Fundraising will be a priority over the coming months.

For more information or media comment please email wel@wel.org.au. 


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