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Can I have an abortion in Australia?

Blog post | 18 Aug 2022

Yes, you can. Abortion is legal in all states and territories of Australia. But in the US it’s different. In June this year, the US Supreme Court ruled that abortion is no longer a constitutional right.

Since then, US states have become responsible for abortion laws and some states have tightened access or even banned abortion.

According to a recent report by the New York Times, this has forced some Americans to have medical abortions without any support from a healthcare professional. This means that if there are complications or an emergency, they may not get safe medical care.

According to Australia’s peak body in reproductive and sexual health, Family Planning Alliance Australia, Australia is overwhelmingly pro-choice. Safe abortion services in Australia ensure women have timely access to healthcare providers who are appropriately trained and equipped to provide medical and surgical abortions. When you’re provided with an abortion in this way, it‘s a safe medical procedure.

But even though every state and territory in Australia offers abortion, access can vary and may be difficult for some people, particularly those living in rural and remote areas.

Learn about abortion in Australia and how you can get an abortion if you need one.

What are Australia's abortion laws?

Abortion is legal throughout Australia. Each state and territory is responsible for abortion law and has different rules.

ACT

You can have an abortion performed by a medical professional including a nurse. You can have an abortion up to the 16th week of pregnancy. After 16 weeks, you may have to organise an appointment in Sydney.

New South Wales

You can have an abortion performed by a doctor up to the 24th week of pregnancy. After 24 weeks, 2 doctors must approve the abortion.

Northern Territory

You can have an abortion performed by a doctor up to the 14th week of pregnancy. Between 14 and 23 weeks, a second doctor also needs to approve the abortion. After 23 weeks, you can only have an abortion if your life is at risk.

Queensland

You can have an abortion performed by a doctor up to the 22nd week of pregnancy. After 22 weeks, 2 doctors must approve the abortion.

South Australia

You can have an abortion performed by a doctor up to the 22nd week of pregnancy and 6 days. After 23 weeks, 2 doctors must approve the abortion and only if they agree that the health or mental wellbeing of the woman is at risk, to save another fetus (multiple pregnancy) or if the fetus has a serious abnormality.

Tasmania

You can have an abortion performed by a doctor up to the 16th week of pregnancy. After 16 weeks, 2 doctors must approve the abortion.

Victoria

You can have an abortion performed by a doctor up to the 24th week of pregnancy. After 24 weeks, 2 doctors must approve the abortion.

Western Australia

You can have an abortion performed by a doctor up to the 20th week of pregnancy if 2 doctors approve the abortion. After 20 weeks, abortions become limited. Two doctors from a government-appointed panel must approve the abortion. They must agree that the procedure can occur only if the mother or fetus has severe medical conditions.

For more details on Australian abortion laws, go to MSI Australia.

What types of abortion are available in Australia?

There are 2 types of abortion to end a pregnancy. Depending on how many weeks you’ve been pregnant, you can end your pregnancy by taking medication or by having a surgical procedure.

You may be able to have an abortion at a private clinic, community-based clinic, or sometimes at a public hospital. You may also be able to get a medical abortion through telehealth services via a general practice, community-based clinic (such as a family planning service) or private clinic.

Currently, denominational (religious) hospitals and healthcare providers aren’t required to offer abortions.

It’s estimated that around 1 in 5 (20%) females in Australia will have an abortion during their lifetime. — Family Planning Alliance, 2018

What does a medical abortion involve and how do I get one?

A medical abortion is a way to terminate a pregnancy up to 9 weeks. It involves taking prescribed medications that stop the pregnancy and expel the contents of the uterus.

For most females, this occurs within 3–4 hours of taking the medication. The process of a medical abortion is like a miscarriage. You’ll experience heavy period like bleeding from the vagina and cramps. The vaginal bleeding usually reduces over 10–16 days.

Complications are rare. But your doctor may advise you to stay close (2 hours away) to a hospital during this time.

You can go to a clinic to have a medical abortion, or you may be able to have one by tele-abortion where a GP will talk to you over the phone and courier the medication to you.

You should speak to a health expert to work out what’s best for you.

What does a surgical abortion involve and how do I get one?

A surgical abortion involves a surgical procedure to empty the uterus. It’s mostly performed in the first trimester, but in some states and territories, you can have one until the 24th week of pregnancy.

You would have the procedure at a clinic or hospital and it takes about 15 minutes. But you’ll be there for about 4 hours overall, to ensure you’re well enough to travel home safely after having the procedure.

Except for people in Western Australia, you won’t need a referral from a doctor to visit a clinic.

Due to COVID-19, your support person may not be able to enter the hospital or clinic with you. Call ahead to find out the current rules.

For more information:

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