Friday, October 31, 2008

Victoria (Australia) Decriminalises Abortion

Many thanks to Simone Cusack, LL.M.,for summarising the new law in the Australian state of Victoria for this blog.

Simone Cusack is a former Reproductive Health Fellow at the University of Toronto, She currently works as a Public Interest Lawyer with the Public Interest Law Clearing House in Melbourne, Australia.


On 10 October 2008, the state Parliament of Victoria passed the Abortion Law Reform Bill 2008, marking an historic occasion for Victorian women. The new law, which is the most liberal in Australia, decriminalizes abortion. Prior to the passing of this new law, the Crimes Act 1958
(Vic) made it a criminal offence to bring about, or to attempt to bring about, or to assist a person to bring about, an unlawful termination of pregnancy.

Under the new law, a woman is permitted to have an abortion at any time during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.

A woman who is more than 24 weeks pregnant is permitted to have an abortion provided that the medical practitioner:
• “reasonably believes that the abortion is
appropriate in all the circumstances;” and,
• “has consulted at least one other registered
medical practitioner who also reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances.”

In considering whether an abortion is
“appropriate in all the circumstances,” regard must be had to “all relevant medical circumstances” and “the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.”

Significantly, the new law addresses the use of drugs to cause abortion by allowing a registered pharmacist or a registered nurse to supply or administer a drug or drugs to cause an abortion.

Registered practitioners who have a conscientious objection to abortion are obligated, under the new law, to inform the woman of the objection, and to refer her to a registered health practitioner who does not share that objection. Notwithstanding any conscientious objection, a registered medical practitioner is required to perform an abortion in an emergency, where it is necessary to preserve a woman’s life.

The bill will come into effect after receiving royal assent.

The bill is available at:
Further information on the bill is available at:

The Victorian Law Reform Commission’s report on the decriminalisation of terminations of pregnancy, which preceded the introduction of the new bill, is available at:

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