Abortion has just been decriminalized across Australia after New South Wales (NSW) which was the last remaining state where it was illegal, finally voted to reform its laws. The Thursday bill overturns a 119-year-old law which was panned by opponents as archaic. The legislation had created weeks of heated debate that deeply divided the state’s conservative government and ultimately passed was passed 26-14.
Earlier, ‘lawful’ abortions were possible in the state, which is home to Sydney, only if a doctor believed there was “serious risk” to a woman’s health. The law now makes it legal for terminations to be conducted up to 22 weeks into a woman’s pregnancy without having to prove that her mental or physical health will be impacted if they continue the pregnancy. After 22 weeks, two specialist medical practitioners need to sign off on the abortion.
The controversial debate over the bill prompted heated protests on both sides. The reform was strongly opposed by anti-abortion activists, religious groups and MPs who raised objections due to their personal beliefs and raised concerns about late-term abortions and abortions based on gender. But last-minute amendments eventually persuaded some conservative MPs, and the bill drew support from other parties.
Labor MP Penny Sharpe, one of the bill’s co-sponsors , said, “The current law has meant women and doctors have a threat of 10 years in jail for making this decision and that’s not okay. This is a massive step forward for women in this state.”
This legal mover in New South Wales means that abortion is now decriminalized everywhere in Australia except the state of South Australia where laws are currently under review.