WA government introduces groundbreaking bill to reform abortion laws

Abortion will be fully decriminalised by removing it as an offense under the Criminal Code

WA government introduces groundbreaking bill to reform abortion laws

The government has introduced a bill to reform Western Australia's abortion laws, following an extensive public consultation that revealed strong support from the community and healthcare professionals for a change.

WA's abortion laws have been in place for 25 years. Under the proposed legislation, abortion will be fully decriminalised by removing it as an offense under the Criminal Code. Instead, abortion will now be included in the Public Health Act 2016.

"The Criminal Code has no role to play in regulating access to legitimate abortion services," Attorney General John Quigley said. "While the offence for an 'unqualified person' to perform or assist with an abortion will remain, the other amendments complete the decriminalisation of abortion, aligning WA with other jurisdictions."

The bill will address the inequity of access in line with other Australian jurisdictions and remove clinically unnecessary barriers for women accessing an abortion. It will also:

  • Reduce the number of health practitioners required to be involved in care from two to one;
  • Abolish the Ministerial Panel requirement for later-term abortions;
  • Allow health practitioners to object conscientiously but be required to transfer the patient's care or provide information on where to access that care;
  • Remove mandatory counselling provisions; and
  • Remove the requirement for Ministerial approval for a health service to perform late abortions.

During the public consultation, which received over 17,500 survey responses, more than 91 per cent of participants were residents of Western Australia, with over 81 per cent of respondents being women. The overwhelming support for various abortion amendments prompted the government to increase the gestational limit from 20 to 23 weeks, in line with current clinical practice.

Premier Roger Cook emphasised that the existing abortion laws are outdated and no longer meet the needs of Western Australians. "It is unacceptable that WA women face greater barriers in accessing what is a critical health care service, and the extensive consultation undertaken confirms that health professionals and the public overwhelmingly agree."

Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson stated that the reform is significant for women in Western Australia. "Safe and accessible abortion is an important and historic reform, and I look forward to delivering this for Western Australian women."

Women's Interests Minister Sue Ellery expressed pride in the government's efforts to modernise the outdated laws, emphasising that women have the right to decide about their bodies and should have access to abortion with dignity and convenience.

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