Western Australia will fully decriminalise abortion under landmark legislation introduced to parliament today.
The changes will mean abortion falls under existing health legislation, instead of the Criminal Code.
WA Premier Roger Cook labelled the state’s abortion legislation “outdated”, saying the 25-year-old laws “no longer meet the needs of Western Australians”.
Western Australia is the last state or territory to fully decriminalise abortion in Australia.
Is abortion legal in Western Australia?
Yes. Abortions can be performed in all Australian jurisdictions up to a certain point in pregnancy. In Western Australia, that threshold is currently 20 weeks gestation.
During that period, a doctor is required to offer counselling to their patient before performing a termination.
After 20 weeks, an abortion is only available if the patient or foetus has a severe health condition. In such cases, a ministerially appointed panel need to approve the procedure.
How are abortion laws changing in Western Australia?
Alongside decriminalising the procedure, Western Australia will increase the gestational limit for abortion to 23 weeks.
The state will also reduce the number of health practitioners required to be involved in an abortion (from two to one). It will also abolish the need for a panel to approve later-term abortions. The counselling provision will also be removed.
A health practitioner can maintain the right to object to an abortion but they’ll have to transfer the patient’s care to an alternative provider.
“It is unacceptable that WA women face greater barriers in accessing what is a critical health care service,” said Premier Cook.
“The introduction of these historic reforms to Parliament is a significant moment for women in this state, who deserve fair, equal and timely access to legal medical services.”
The Labor Party has a majority in both houses of WA parliament, meaning the bill is expected to pass.