Australia is technically the only state that currently criminalises abortion.
Queensland has now legalised abortion up to twenty-two weeks gestation after Queensland Parliament passed the laws to legalise it Wednesday night.
NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said, “NSW is now the last state in Australia where abortion is still technically a crime and it is part time that this outdated and offensive section is removed from the Crimes Act in NSW”.
Australian Human rights lawyers have supported Queensland’s decision and urged NSW to follow the same.
Women’s rights organisation Fair Agenda also supported this move. Executive Director Renee Carr is reported saying, “Queensland’s historic reform was just passed with support from members in the ALP, LNP, Greens and an independent. This issue is above partisan politics and it’s time NSW brought its laws out of the dark ages.”
What is the Current Law on Abortion in NSW?
Sections 82 through to 84 of the Crimes Act (1900) NSW.
A woman will face a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment if guilty of being a woman with a child who unlawfully administers any drug (noxious thing) or unlawfully uses any instrument (or other means) with the intention to procure a miscarriage under section 82 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
Further, it is also a criminal offence carrying a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment if a person unlawfully administers to a woman (or causes her to take) any drug (or noxious thing) or unlawfully uses any instrument (or other means) with the intention of procuring her miscarriage under section 83 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
It is also a criminal offence to supply or procure any such drug (or noxious thing) or any instrument (or thing whatsoever) knowing that it will be used with the intention to commit any of the above offences. A person guilty of this can face a penalty of up to 5 years imprisonment under section 84 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
In 1971 the case of R v Wald allows a woman to get an abortion only if a qualified doctor can give the opinion that the woman needs the abortion in order to maintain her mental well-being and physical health.
Judge Levine in that case said, that an abortion can be lawful if the medical practitioner honestly believes that “the operation was necessary to preserve the woman involved from serious danger or her life or physical or mental health which the continuance of the pregnancy would entail.”
In determining the woman’s mental health, the case also says that a relevant factor includes the impact of any economic or social stress that might be existing at the time.
Safe-Zone Laws in NSW
Earlier this year, abortion laws and women’s rights were also thrown into the media spot light by the introduction of safe zone laws when the NSW upper house passed a bill in June this year in relation to abortion clinics and women’s reproductive health facilities.
The safe law zones have effectively prohibited activists from going within one-hundred-and-fifty meters of an abortion clinic in New South Wales.
The safe zone laws purposes were to provide protection for the privacy and safety of not only women patients, but also those who work at the clinics. It was in direct response to the harassment from picketing and unsolicited advice from those against abortions.
There are heavy penalties for anyone breaching these laws, which include:
A penalty of up to 6 months imprisonment and/or $5,500 fine for a first-time offender, and 1-year imprisonment and/or $11,000 fine for a second time offender.
The safe zone laws include:
- The prohibition of anyone taking photos or videos of another person inside the 150m safe access zone of an abortion clinic (unless there is consent). This is reflected in section 98E of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).
- The prohibition of communicating anything in relation to abortions (if it’s likely to cause distress/anxiety) while within 150m of an abortion clinic. This is reflected in section 98D of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).
- The prohibition of intimidating, threatening, hindering, obstructing impeding or harassing anyone who is inside the 150m safe zone of an abortion clinic. This is reflected in section 98C of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).
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