SYDNEY—Outdated laws that go against modern medical practices are causing some Australian women to become “abortion tourists,” two Queensland experts said in an editorial published online on Monday.
The editorial, carried in the Medical Journal of Australia, revealed that in Australia, diagnoses for fetal abnormalities are now routinely offered to pregnant women at 10 to 13 weeks, with the implication they may choose to terminate the pregnancy upon discovering serious abnormalities.
Abortion is illegal in the states of Queensland and New South Wales unless it can be proven a women’s physical and/or mental health is in serious danger if the pregnancy was to proceed.
However, abortion is legal in Victoria to 26 weeks, 20 weeks in Western Australia, 16 weeks in Tasmania and 14 weeks in the Northern Territory, whose laws make specific allowances for fetal abnormalities.
“The result of these differences is continuing and extensive abortion ‘tourism’ from all Australian states to Victoria, and overseas, in the face of barriers to access to abortion,” reads the editorial, co-written by Caroline de Costa, professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at James Cook University, and Heather Douglas, professor of Law at University of Queensland.
The authors are calling for decriminalization and 21st century approach to abortion in Australia, noting the pregnancy termination law in Queensland dates back to 1899 with virtually no change to the wording.
“In 2015, there is an urgent need for legislative uniformity across Australia so that the law is in step with modern medical practice, and so that women, regardless of where they live, have equal access to abortion services,” the editorial reads.