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Let's Talk About Sexual & Reproductive Health BLOG

  • Writer's pictureDr Emma Boulton

Abortion - Its Time for Change!

Updated: May 24, 2019

Who would have thought that we are still living in the 19 century?

Well of course we’re not, but unfortunately our law - the ‘Division 12 of the New South Wales Crimes Act’ is still in force and preventing Australian women in 2019 from accessing safe and legal abortion in New South Wales.

This is a terrible and unjust state of affairs. Most people in Australia would not be aware that abortion is not completely legal in New South Wales, but according to the law books it’s a crime for women and their doctors to have safe and open access to this vital medical procedure.

Women have a right to choose when they reproduce and it is not the business of judgmental luddites to dictate how they should live their lives.

Around Australia, abortion law varies widely; in each state there are different requirements for women seeking abortion services.

NSW and QLD are trailing; this is most likely because the state governments are still heavily influenced by the Catholic Church. And despite our enlightened Pope Francis, his message of forgiveness and acceptance of women who have needed to undergo termination of pregnancy, Australian pro-life politicians maintain their (outdated and unjustified) position.

Fortunately one political party is prepared to make a stand. Mehreen Faruqi, the NSW Green Party Senator is spearheading ‘The End 12 Campaign’.

Division 12 of the NSW Crimes Act 1900 states “whosoever being a women with child unlawfully administers to herself any drug or noxious thing or unlawfully uses any instrument or other means with intent in any such case to procure her miscarriage shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years”.

Of course abortion is widely available in NSW as there have been some legal challenges to this law, which enable practitioners and their patients to be overlooked by the Police and the judiciary. But inevitably this outdated legislation provides a disincentive both for doctors to guide and provide, and women who seek abortion services, to access this vital medical procedure.

This is a silent agenda. No one wants to talk about it; no one wants to grapple with it. The intention of the bill soon to be put before the NSW Parliament by The Greens, is to allow women seeking abortion and reproductive health services to be able to do so free from harassment and intimidation.

All clinics that provide termination of pregnancy services in Sydney are visited by protesting groups, who wait outside the clinic and harass patients who attend. Verbally abusing them and often with banners and placards exhibiting gruesome photographs which they state represent tissue specimens from abortion services.

No one ever wants an abortion but when a woman has come to the difficult decision that she cannot continue with her pregnancy, both for the physical, mental and social health and wellbeing for her and her family, and that of the foetus, then she needs to be able to seek safe service from competent doctors and other health professionals, which will not put her in danger, who will not judge her, who will provide her with the care and support that she needs during this difficult time in her life.

This is not a debate about abortion itself. Many people hold very strong views regarding abortion and whether it is right or whether it is wrong and what point does a foetus become a person; this is not what this debate is about. This debate is about enabling women to access safe services and not to be harassed and intimidated at a difficult time in their lives.

Doctors need to facilitate access to these services for women. Even if a doctor personally does not believe in abortion or that abortion is the correct thing to do, that is irrelevant. That doctor has a duty of care to refer a woman on, so she may access those services.

Women and their families have a right to medical privacy and it is shameful and disgusting that religious bigots and political luddites are still preventing women in modern Australia from access to basic medical care.

If you want to make a difference, find out who your local member is in NSW and lobby that politician. It is likely that when this bill enters the NSW parliament, it will be voted on as a conscious vote and not down as a political party ruling.

So come on ladies, and let’s lobby for liberty!!!

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