How Do NSW Abortion Laws Compare To The Rest Of The World?

NSW has just become the last state in Australia to decriminalise abortion.

The often controversial and divisive debate around NSW abortion laws has dominated much of the news in Australia over the past few months.

Sydney, NSW. Credit: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Heated discussions around gestation periods, gender selection and the conscientious objection of doctors have highlighted conflicting views both in parliament, and within our society.

However, after a lengthy battle to introduce a reform bill, abortion in New South Wales was finally decriminalised this morning. Here’s everything you need to know about the NSW abortion laws:

The NSW abortion law reform bill states that the service is allowed up to 22 weeks of gestation, after which it can be performed with the approval of two “specialist medical practitioners” – meaning an obstetrician or doctor with experience in obstetrics.

Other amendments to the bill include all terminations after 22 weeks must be performed in a public hospital and it is now a crime punishable up to two years in jail to coerce a person to either prevent or force them to have an abortion.

Health care practitioners are also obligated to give appropriate medical care if a termination results in a live baby being born, and there is a ban on sex-selection abortion.

Credit: Twitter

It’s a huge victory for women all over the country, and a positive step towards a future where women have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, without government involvement.

But how do we compare with the rest of Australia, and the rest of the world?


The March together for Choice rally in Brisbane, October 2018.
Credit: AAP Image/Glenn Hunt

Abortion was decriminalised in Queensland in 2018, and is available on request for the first 22 weeks of gestation. 

After this period, a second medical practitioner must be consulted to determine if the termination should proceed. The bill also ensured 150m safe zones enacted around termination services.

Prior to the bill passing, it was a crime to perform an abortion, access an abortion, or supply drugs and instruments to be used in an abortion in Queensland – whether the woman was pregnant or not. 

Abortions could, however, be lawfully performed if it was in order to protect a woman’s life or her physical and mental health. Sadly, this didn’t include rape, incest and fetal anomaly as grounds for a lawful abortion.  

In 2016, two years before abortion was decriminalised in Queensland, Justice Duncan McMeekin authorised a 12-year-old girl to undergo an abortion because of a risk of self-harm or suicide.

Abortion advocates criticised the need for the court to be involved in the decision, which they argued should only involve the girl and medical staff. This led to the eventual decriminalisation of abortion in Queensland.


Melbourne, Victoria. Credit: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The Victoria Abortion Law Reform Act was introduced in 2008, allowing the service on request up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. Like Queensland, after 24 weeks two doctors must agree that the abortion go ahead based on the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.

Victorian law also ensures the 150m ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics, making it illegal for anti-abortion protestors to harrass or film patients.

In 1986, police raided the rooms of Dr. Ian McGoldrick after health authorities claimed he was conducting “illegal” abortions on underage girls. McGoldrick was later cleared of charges, but the case was a prime example of the risks faced by doctors performing the service, as well as women seeking the service.


Hobart, Tasmania. Credit: Leisa Tyler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Abortion has been decriminalised in Tasmania since 2013, and is available on request up to 16 weeks of pregnancy. Again, after 16 weeks, multiple doctors must be consulted to determine if the abortion should go ahead. Tasmania also has enforced the 150m safe zones around abortion clinics. 

Unfortunately, there are very few health care professionals or clinics offering abortion services in Tasmania. In mid-2018, a rally to improve access to abortion services in Tasmania was organised after the state’s only clinic closed.

In response, the Tasmanian Government extended a travel assistance scheme to women who are referred to Melbourne specialists for their surgical abortions. However, many women are still fronting private costs and flights to Melbourne. 

Not-for-profit private abortion clinic Marie Stopes Australia made a proposal to the State Government to open a clinic in Hobart, but made little to no progress with MPs.

The Rest Of Australia

Sydney, NSW. Credit: Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

As for the rest of Australia, abortion was decriminalised in South Australia since 1969 up to 28 weeks of pregnancy, in Western Australia since 1998 up to 20 weeks, and the Northern Territory in 2017 up to 24 weeks. 

All three states offer 150-metre safe access zones around abortion clinics and in SA, the service is available for free or at a low cost at various public health facilities. 

Other Countries

London, England. Credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Across the pond, abortion laws get even murkier. In Ireland, abortion was decriminalised in 2018, and is permitted during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After this period of time, it can only be performed if a woman’s life or health is at risk, or in the case of foetal abnormality. 

In 2012, Savita Halappanar was an Indian woman living in Ireland who died as a result of being denied an abortion while suffering a septic miscarriage. Halappanar’s tragic death encouraged the repeal of The Eighth Amendment, which prohibited abortion and guaranteed to protect the right to life of the unborn, and the mother. 

In May of 2018, Irish citizens voted on the issue of abortion and the repeal of The Eighth Amendment. Over 2M people voted, with 66.4% voting ‘yes’ to legalise abortion and change the constitution.

In the United States, abortion laws get even more complicated. The service is legal in all U.S. states, however, earlier this year, Alabama’s governor signed an aggressive anti-abortion law that would permit the service only if the mother’s life is at risk or if the fetus cannot service. It would not be permitted in the case of rape or incest.

A growing number of U.S. states took Alabama’s lead, including Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana and Georgia, who are looking to ban abortion as soon as a heartbreat is detected. 

While these laws are yet to go into effect, they demonstrate the ease in which government bodies are able to make decisions on behalf of women, and the lack of control we have over our own bodies.

In Australia, we have made progress by legalising abortion in all states, but there is clearly a long way to go to give women the rights they deserve. 

We've Been So Starved Of Libspill Lately, We're Frothing Over A Coupla Cheds

The Cheds that stopped the nation.

Earlier today, NSW experienced a state-wide eye roll when three Liberal MPs announced their plans to move a spill motion against Premiere Gladys Berejiklian.

MPs Tanya Davies, Matthew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato MLC claimed Berejiklian had “broken trust” over the state’s abortion laws, which are currently being debated in parliament.

According to the ABC, the trio said they’d been “bewildered by the lack of regard for proper parliamentary process,” and failure to allow members “meaningful consultation” with their local communities.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, pre Cheds. Credit: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

Just a few hours after the spill hit the headlines, the three MPs called it off when Davies “received confirmation that further concessions would be forthcoming in relation to the bill.”

In the midst of all the political drama, there was one hero. Not Berejiklian, not the three rebel MPs, not any other member of the government – it was a couple of humble Arnott’s Cheds biccies.

Credit: Coles

The iconic cheese-flavoured crackers started to make their rise to the top of the biccie jar when the Daily Telegraph published a story about the libspill, featuring a photo of Berejiklian leaving her house gently clasping a couple of Cheds.

The publication credited the crackers as Saladas, but were quickly corrected by Twitter users who clarified that they were, indeed, Cheds. Even Berejiklian herself weighed in on the cracker debate, tweeting a picture of her favourite snack with the caption: “Confirmation breakfast choice is Cheds not Salada.”

Credit: Twitter

Since Gladys stepped out with her beloved Cheds, Twitter has been having a field day.

Credit: Twitter

AAP national economics writer Angus Livingston even had a colleague recreate the handling of the crackers to confirm that “normal-sized hands cannot hold Saladas in this fashion” – further ensuring Cheds would come out on top.

Credit: Twitter

Let’s be honest, we might not all like Gladys Berejiklian’s politics, but we can all agree that Cheds are Arnott’s best savoury biccie. Now, go forth and stock up on all the Cheds – Lord knows the supermarkets are going to be experiencing a spike in sales.

Billie Eilish Donates Festival Fees Because She's Sick Of This Conversation

Well said, Billie.

Billie Eilish is so sick of the rhetoric around abortion laws, she’s taking matters into her own hands and parting ways with her hard-earned cash. 

Billie is taking a stand. Credit: Giphy

In a recent Instagram story, Eilish told her 38.1M followers that she’d be dedicating her performance at the upcoming Music Midtown Festival and donating a portion of her fees to the reproductive healthcare organisation.

“Atlanta. One of my favourite places in the world, to be in, to play shows. But I do not love the state’s lawmaker’s decision to take away women’s rights,” Eilish wrote. “I can’t believe we are even having this conversation in 2019.”

Credit: @billieeilish Instagram Stories

“I’m dedicating my performance and donating a portion of my guarantee to @plannedparenthood. We need this organisation more than ever,” she added. Planned Parenthood responded to Eilish via Twitter, thanking her for the support. 

Credit: Twitter

According to The New York Times, Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia signed one of the “most restrictive abortion laws” in May this year. The law would effectively ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy which is typically when doctors are able detect a heartbeat.

Sadly, this controversial “fetal heartbeat bill” isn’t exclusive to Georgia. Across the United States, several states have proposed the bill and it has already successfully passed in Ohio, Missouri and, of course, Georgia. 

Protesters rally outside of the Georgia State Capitol, 2019.
Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File

While there is no fetal heartbeat bill enforced in Australia, we are still facing our own hurdles when it comes to abortion laws. Today, the NSW abortion bill debate resumes in parliament to decide whether abortion should be legalised in the state. 

The new legislation will allow terminations up to 22 weeks – and later, with the consent of two doctors. While there are plenty of MPs supporting the decriminalisation of abortion, there are opponents of the bill who have raised concerns about late-term abortions, sex-selection and conscientious objection.

Yesterday, at a rally to oppose abortion decriminalisation in Sydney’s Hyde Park, former PM Tony Abbott called the proposed bill “infanticide on demand.”

Tony Abbott during an anti-abortion rally in Hyde Park, September 2019.
Credit: AAP Image/James Gourley

It’s so important for people with a platform, like Billie Eilish, to keep on standing up against these kinds of comments and continue fighting for women’s rights.

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