Western Australia has some of the toughest abortion laws in the country, which have forced some women to travel interstate to access healthcare, but the state government is finally trying to overhaul the outdated legislation.
A four-week consultation period has opened to modernize WA’s abortion laws, which have remained unchanged for nearly 25 years, with a bill expected to be introduced to the state legislature next year.
Feedback is solicited on the need for a GP referral before 20 weeks gestation, current mandatory consultation requirements, and when an abortion can be accessed.
The government says abortion will be fully decriminalized, but it remains a criminal offense for an unqualified person to perform or assist in an abortion.
Health Secretary Amber-Jade Sanderson said the government wanted to hear from women and stakeholders.
“It can be particularly difficult for women in regional and remote WA, where access to GPs may be limited and access to care is time-sensitive,” she said.
“WA women should not face greater barriers to health care than their interstate counterparts.”
Attorney General John Quigley said criminal law has no role in regulating abortion services.
“The Criminal Code currently increases the risk for doctors and patients that an abortion can be considered a criminal offense if certain strict legal requirements are not met,” he said.
“It is totally inappropriate that such an important healthcare service should be treated in this way.
“It is time to fully decriminalize abortion in WA while ensuring that an unqualified person is barred from performing or assisting in an abortion.”
Women’s Interests Minister Simone McGurk noted that last year the state government passed legislation on safe access zones to allow women to access redundancies without fear of harassment and intimidation.
She said this is another step towards improving abortion treatment.
“Abortion is a fundamental part of women’s health care — it’s a right that should be strictly protected,” she said.
“Safety, privacy and dignity in access to abortion are critical. I urge women to speak up to ensure the legislation serves its purpose.”
Originally released as Western Australia to overhaul the nation’s toughest abortion laws