New South Wales Ends 119-Year-Old Law Criminalizing Abortion

The Reproductive Health Care Act 2019 seeks to allow abortion up to 22 weeks in New South Wales [Joel Carrett/EPA]
Lawmakers in New South Wales, Australia, voted Thursday to overturn a 119-year-old law criminalizing abortion, drawing criticism from pro-life advocates. 

After more than two weeks of debate, the New South Wales parliament voted to pass the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019. The bill decriminalizes abortion and makes terminations available to women up to 22 weeks into their pregnancy without having to prove their mental or physical health will be impacted if they continue the pregnancy, the BBC reports.

After 22 weeks, pregnant women seeking an abortion will need two specialist medical practitioners to sign off on the procedure.

The bill overturned a 119-year-old law that made it a criminal offense to obtain or administer an abortion. Previously, abortions were only legal in Australia’s most populous state if a doctor deemed there was “serious risk” to a woman’s physical or mental health if she carried her baby to term. “Unlawful abortion” was previously listed in the Crimes Act and carried a possible penalty of 10 years in prison for a woman who administered her own abortion.

The bill’s passage means that abortion is now decriminalized everywhere in Australia, apart from the state of South Australia, where abortions are legal for some medical reasons.

Abortion was already decriminalized in Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.

On Twitter, Labor MP Penny Sharpe, co-sponsor of the bill, praised the move as a “massive step forward for women & other pregnant people” that came “not a minute too soon.”

Religious and pro-life organizations have voiced their dismay over the decision. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, said it was a “dark day” for the state and called it “a defeat for humanity.”

“The Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 may be the worst law passed in New South Wales in modern times, because it represents such a dramatic abdication of responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said in a statement posted on social media.

“Since the abolition of capital punishment in New South Wales in 1955, this is the only deliberate killing ever legalized in our state.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leah MarieAnn Klett