Australia

Australia's Northern Territory decriminalises abortion

Protesters gather in the Northern Territory to campaign for abortion reform Image copyright ABC/James Oaten
Image caption Debate over the issue had prompted protests

Australia's Northern Territory has decriminalised abortion as part of wide-ranging reforms on the medical termination of pregnancy.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the laws bring the territory in line with the rest of Australia.

The reforms legalise the use of abortion drugs, such as RU486, up to nine weeks into a pregnancy.

They also allow medical terminations to happen in specialist clinics, instead of solely in city hospitals.

Previously, women in remote areas travelled hundreds of kilometres to Darwin or Alice Springs to access surgical abortions in hospital.

"We hear of women forced to travel interstate to terminate pregnancies," Mr Gunner said.

The reforms decriminalise termination by removing legislation making it illegal to provide an abortion or supply a woman with abortion drugs.

Other changes

The new measures also mean:

  • Doctors who conscientiously object to performing terminations will be compelled to refer women to another doctor
  • "Safe zones" will be established outside clinics to prevent women from harassment
  • Patients will be protected by a clause stipulating an "unqualified person" cannot perform an abortion

"We believe all territory women are entitled to control over their lives and access to high quality services," said Health Minister Natasha Fyles.

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