Decriminalising Abortion in SA

On Tuesday 2 March the South Australia Parliament passed the Termination of Pregnancy Bill, which decriminalises abortion and paves the way for better access to abortion care in the State.

This historic reform means that abortion is no longer treated as a crime under the SA criminal code (where it had been for more than 50 years) and is now regulated as health care under health law, policy and ethics.

The change goes a long way toward ending the stigma of abortion and recognising the right of patients to make personal decisions about their health, life and pregnancy in consultation with their doctor.

Several out-of-date barriers have been removed:

  • Abortion care can be provided beyond a few selected hospitals, which increases access for patients living outside urban and regional centres.
  • Patients no longer need to be SA residents for more than two months, which means temporary residents such as students and visitors, as well patients in border areas who normally come to SA for health care, have access to abortion care.
  • Patients needing an abortion up to 22 weeks and six days in pregnancy must have the approval of just one doctor (the old law required two doctor approval and there was a limit of 24 weeks beyond which abortion was not legally available in SA). After 22 weeks and 6 days abortions must be considered medically appropriate by two doctors, on specified grounds including significant risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the patient.
  • Patients can access Early Medication Abortion (EMA) via one doctor and via telehealth consultations, which means more timely care, closer to home (especially important for patients in rural and remote areas).

The House of Assembly made several amendments to the Bill, including:

  1. a ban on sex selective abortion
  2. a requirement that doctors who perform abortions must give information about counselling to all abortion patients, whether or not a patient is interested
  3. specified conditions on which abortions can be performed after 22 weeks and 6 days of pregnancy, including to save a life, or where there is significant risk of injury to the physical or mental health of the patient or significant fetal abnormality
  4. changes to the conscientious objection and doctor referral requirements.

saaac believes these amendments were unnecessary and serve only to maintain stigmatisation of abortion care. However, the new legislation brings South Australian abortion care into the 21st century, and we look forward to its positive impact on sexual and reproductive health care. 

We are grateful to the many Parliamentarians from all sides who supported the Bill. Find out who they are and whether your MP was among them.

Want to know more?
Look at the Termination of Pregnancy Bill 2020 as passed by the House of Assembly on 2 March 2021.