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As the Australian Government does not legislate on abortion laws, the States and Territories have their own laws. Even though in some states abortion remains under criminal law, judicial rulings mean that abortion is regarded as legal if certain conditions are met. The father is not required to consent and may not legally prevent an abortion. In all jurisdictions, the woman must give informed consent.
The following is a brief summary of information for each state as well as a link to the relevant legislation. It is not legal advice.
Abortion as a criminal offence was repealed in 2002 and abortion is treated under the Health Act. Abortion is permitted by any registered medical practitioner in a medical facility or part of a medical facility approved by the Minister for Health. Every person has the right to refuse to assist with an abortion.
CRIMES (ABOLITION OF OFFENCE OF ABORTION) ACT 2002
In NSW abortion was legalised in October 2019 with the passage of the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019.
A termination can be sought up until 22 weeks gestation. Terminations can be performed after 22 weeks, to full term however there are conditions to this including the consultation of a second medical practitioner and the offering of counselling. A registered health practitioner with conscientious objection must disclose the objection to the person and refer on to a practitioner or service who does not have a conscientious objection. 150m safe access zones are set around termination services.
Abortion Law Reform Act 2019
On October 17 2018 the Termination of Pregnancy Bill was passed in parliament, decriminalising abortion although restrictions remain and there are still penalties prescribed by law for unlawful abortion. Abortion is legal in Queensland and available on request as a health service up until 22 weeks gestation. Thereafter the involved medical practitioner must consult another medical practitioner who also considers that, in all the circumstances, the termination should be performed. A registered health practitioner with conscientious objection must disclose the objection to the person and refer on to a practitioner or service who, in the first belief, can provide the requested service and does not also have a conscientious objection. 150m safe access zones are set around termination services.
Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2018
Since 1969, abortion up to 28 weeks of pregnancy has been legal in South Australia if two doctors agree that it is necessary to protect the life or physical or mental health of the woman or if the child is likely to be born with a serious abnormality. It must be performed in a hospital and the pregnant woman must be a resident of South Australia (for atleast two months before the abortion). In an emergency, these provisions may be waived. A conscience clause enables medical practitioners to elect not to participate in an abortion.
CRIMINAL LAW CONSOLIDATION ACT 1935 (go to Current Version PDF, Part 3 Division 17)
Abortion on request is available up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. After 16 weeks, a doctor can provide a termination with the woman’s consent if the doctor reasonably believes that continuing the pregnancy would involve greater risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the woman than if the pregnancy was terminated. The doctor must consult a second doctor who agrees with this. At least one of the doctors must specialise in obstetrics or gynaecology. In assessing the risk of injury, doctors must consider the woman’s physical, psychological, economic and social circumstances.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH (ACCESS TO TERMINATIONS) ACT 2013
New legislation was passed in March 2017. The new legislation allows for abortion up to 14 weeks if a medical practitioner considers it is appropriate having regard to a woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances. Between 14 and 23 weeks a second suitably qualified medical practitioner must also consider the termination appropriate.
The Northern Territory’s Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Act states that abortion is lawful:
1. At less than 14 weeks if a suitably qualified medical practitioner considers the termination is appropriate in all the circumstances, having regard to:
(a) all relevant medical circumstances; and
(b) the woman's current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances; and
(c) professional standards and guidelines.
2. A suitably qualified medical practitioner may perform a termination on a woman who is more than 14 weeks pregnant, but not more than 23 weeks pregnant, if:
(a) the medical practitioner has consulted with at least one other suitably qualified medical practitioner who has assessed the woman; and
(b) each medical practitioner considers the termination is appropriate in all the circumstances (as per 1).
The Act stipulates that a pregnant person's life must be endangered for a pregnancy to be terminated at more than 23 weeks gestation.
TERMINATION OF PREGNANCY LAW REFORM BILL 2017
Abortion up to 20 weeks is legal with informed consent but with restrictions for those under 16, where counselling is given by a medical practitioner other than the one performing the abortion. After 20 weeks, abortion is only justified if two doctors from an appointed panel of six deem that there are strong indications of serious medical or psychiatric conditions of the mother, or foetal abnormalities. Informed consent is needed and the procedure must be performed in a facility approved by the Minister.
ACTS AMENDMENT (ABORTION) ACT 1998
Abortion up to 24 weeks is legal for any reason if carried out by a registered medical practitioner. After 24 weeks, a registered medical practitioner may carry out an abortion if he/she reasonably believes the abortion is appropriate in all circumstances and has consulted another registered medical practitioner. They must consider a) all relevant medical circumstances and b) the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.
ABORTION LAW REFORM ACT 2008
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