Abortion has been removed from Western Australia’s criminal code and access will be easier for women, in sweeping reforms passed by the state parliament.
The amended laws to address inequity bring WA into line with other jurisdictions and remove unnecessary clinical barriers that were driving some women to seek treatment interstate.
Premier Roger Cook said the changes were socially progressive and modernised the state’s abortion laws.
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“We believe that it’s everyone’s right to be able to access safe, affordable, and legal reproductive services,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“It is clear that the community and Western Australian women want these reforms.”
Under the changes, the number of health practitioners required to be involved in most abortion care has been reduced from two to one, and the list of practitioners that can provide the service has been expanded.
The requirement for mandatory counselling and ministerial and panel approval for later-term abortions has been abolished.
The new laws also allow health practitioners to conscientiously object and refuse to provide treatment, but they must transfer the patient to another service provider or give them information on where to access it.
The gestational time at which additional requirements apply has also been amended from 20 to 23 weeks, to best reflect current clinical practice.
Abortion is also no longer a crime, but it will still remain an offence for an unqualified person to perform or assist with the procedure.
Women’s Interests Minister Sue Ellery said the changes mean abortion will now be treated like other forms of medical care.
“The laws are about removing barriers to access, particularly for women who live outside the metropolitan centre or outside regional centres,” she said.
Ms Ellery said making the decision to undertake a late-term abortion was tough.
“It’s an awful time … These are complicated cases, complicated medical cases and deeply, deeply distressing for the women who at that point had carried a baby with the expectation that that baby was going to go full term,” she said.
“Making sure that they can access those services here in WA as opposed to having to fly to interstate, which we know many of them were doing, this is about putting the patient at the centre.”
Accredited abortion provider MSI Australia said the amendments would help improve sexual and reproductive healthcare in the state.
“These legislative reforms make it clear that reproductive choice, and access to abortion care, should be just as accessible and affordable to Western Australians as any other form of healthcare,” managing director Greg Johnson said.
“By extending the gestational limit and dismantling unnecessary administrative hurdles, WA has taken a significant step forward in ensuring timely access to abortion care.”
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