What Are The Laws Relating To Abortion In Australia

by Legal Author on July 31, 2013

(Guest post) Abortion is a complicated issue that understandably, has led to some complicated laws around the world. In Australia, abortion laws are governed on a state by state basis, though abortion is legal in some circumstances everywhere in the country. What circumstances an abortion may be performed under, how this is funded and until what stage of pregnancy varies from state to state, however, so if you need to know your own legal position it is best to look up the situation where you live or speak to your local doctor.

Here are the fundamental laws relating to abortion in Australia:

Australian Capital Territory

Abortion here has been legal in full since 2002.

New South Wales

Abortion can be performed in New South Wales providing a doctor verifies that there is a valid reason, in terms of the continuation of the pregnancy posing a risk to the mother or child from a medical, social or economic perspective.

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory has the strictest laws in Australia with regard to abortion. A termination can only be performed here if two doctors approve the procedure, and they have to agree that continuing the pregnancy will result in a greater risk to the mother’s health or her life than continuing with the pregnancy, or it is likely that the child would be born with significant mental or physical handicaps. All abortions must be performed within a hospital, and must be carried out before the 14th week of pregnancy.


In Queensland abortion can be carried out up to 22 weeks, and can be performed by clinical specialists as ‘therapeutic miscarriages’. Abortion is only available where there are likely to be birth defects, or where there is a significant threat to the mother’s health or life (unlike in some states where an abortion can be approved for social and economic reasons as well as health reasons).

South Australia

Technically, while South Australia has very lenient abortion laws, allowing abortion on request up to an absolute maximum of 28 weeks (though usually only up to 22 or 23 weeks) subject to approval of two doctors, people are required to prove they are resident in the state to undergo the treatment. However, in practice, the residency check and the consent of two doctors can be waived in an emergency, and at the Pregnancy Advisory Centre women are able to gain access to these services for free and without a check on residency in the state.


Tasmania’s laws, in practice, mirror those described in South Australia.


In Victoria, since 2008, abortion has been legal on the grounds of the mental and physical health of the mother or child, and also on social or economic grounds up to 24 weeks. Prior to this, the laws here mirrored those in Queensland.

Western Australia

In Western Australia abortion can be carried out on request if there are significant family, social, economic or health reasons up to 20 weeks though the woman has to have counselling from one source other than the practitioner. After 20 weeks, two independent doctors are required to verify that the foetus is likely to be born with severe handicaps or is unlikely to survive for an abortion to be carried out. Women under 16 in most

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Today’s guest author, Jenny Wadlow, is a freelance blogger. She often writes about maternity healthcare and she advises women to not indulge in any abortion pills or other birth control methods without consulting a doctor.

Legal Author

Legal Author

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