After months of debate in the Upper and Lower House, SA Parliament this week supported a bill making abortion a healthcare issue rather than criminal law issue, and allowing later-term procedures and greater access.
Abortion has been decriminalised in SA
On Tuesday, 2 March, SA Parliament’s Legislative Council voted to support the Pregnancy Termination Act – a historic bill spearheaded by the state’s attorney-general, Vickie Chapman, which, for the first time in 50 years, changes the way people can access abortions in SA.
It’s a bill that has been years of research, consultation and campaigning in the making, and over the last couple of months has weathered amendments and debates (sometimes stretching 22 hours) before getting over the line this week.
The bill most importantly moves abortion out of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act and into healthcare.
What this means for women in SA is late-term abortions – procedures occurring when someone is more than 22 weeks and six days along – can occur if there is a threat to life, a chance of severe foetal abnormality and the risk of physical or mental health of the mother, and two medical practitioners find it “medically appropriate”. This was not allowed previously.
– Vickie Chapman
Another big aspect of the bill is rural and remote patients will have greater access to terminations, as they no longer need to attend a prescribed hospital or clinic.
This was previously a problem for people living outside of Metropolitan Adelaide as SA Health reported that in 2018, 673 women (out of a total 815) had to travel to the city from the country for the procedure.
The stipulation that someone receiving the procedure must be a South Australian resident for at least two months before acquiring the termination has been removed, meaning visitors, new residents and people living in border towns can now access the procedure here.
Also, every patient, regardless of whether they acquire an abortion, will be provided counselling and information. Abortion for gender selection is not allowed.
The Law Society of South Australia “welcomes” the news but said in an online statement “ideally” the bill should have been “passed without amendment”.
“The Society’s view, informed by the comprehensive SALRI report, has always been that abortion should be treated as a health issue,” SA’s peak legal body says.
“It is important that we trust women, medical experts, and the rigorous, multi-layered regulatory health framework that governs the ethical, professional and clinical conduct of the medical profession.”
Vickie Chapman, the AG and Liberal MP responsible for the change, congratulated the Parliament on Instagram for passing the legislation, saying it: “will help women who are forced to make one of the most difficult decisions of their life.”
View this post on Instagram
Barbara Baird is the co-convener of advocacy group the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition and says she’s “relieved” the law will finally make abortion healthcare.
“Medical professionals can now bring compassion to the delivery of abortion care without the threat of the law,” she says in a statement.
“This is especially significant for patients in rural and remote South Australia who have long waited for the removal of legal barriers to accessing the same abortion care as those living in Adelaide.”