A landmark bill to decriminalize abortion in South Australia has passed the Lower House of the state Parliament, following heated and protracted debate.
- The bill was passed with 29 votes for and 15 against
- It removes abortion from the codification law of criminal law
- An amendment was also adopted which prevents the termination of pregnancy on the basis of sex.
Members of Parliament got a conscience vote on the bill, which moves abortion from the Criminal Law Codification Act to health care legislation.
The bill was passed just after 2 a.m. on Friday, with 29 votes in favor and 15 against.
It will also allow late abortions – defined as after 22 weeks and six days – to occur when deemed “medically appropriate” by two doctors.
However, several amendments were added to the bill after a lengthy debate which saw provisions strengthened around informed consent.
Late abortions will only be allowed if there is a threat to the life of the pregnant person or another fetus or if there is a significant risk of serious fetal abnormalities associated with the pregnancy.
They will also be approved if the continuation of the pregnancy would pose a significant risk of harm to the physical or mental health of the pregnant person.
When deciding whether to discontinue, the physician should also consider whether the patient has had difficulty accessing necessary specialist services in a timely manner before the pregnancy reaches 22 weeks and 6 days, including patients experiencing an interruption. significant socio-economic disadvantage, cultural or language barriers those who reside in remote places.
The lower house also passed an amendment that prevents termination of pregnancy on the basis of sex.
‘It’s about giving women a choice’
Attorney General Vickie Chapman said it was a historic day for women in South Australia.
“It makes abortion a health issue, not a criminal issue, and makes explicit the higher level of medical care and decision-making that already exists in South Australia,” Ms Chapman said.
“This is about removing outdated barriers to women’s access, while ensuring that safeguards are in place where needed.”
Labor MPs Stephen Mullighan and Tom Koutsantonis, as well as Liberal backbench MP Stephen Knoll and Liberal MP David Speirs voted against the bill.
The bill has yet to be passed by the state’s upper house.
Mr Speirs said that while he was still in favor of decriminalizing abortion, there were aspects of the bill that he did not support.
“What we saw last night, in my opinion, was a historic step forward in terms of moving abortion from the penal code to the health code.
“I think it’s a good thing for women.”
People “ struggle with their conscience ”
Mr Speirs said Parliament had worked its best throughout the debate to reach an agreement.
“There was immense respect between the two sides on this debate,” he said.
“And there were probably more than two sides because there were a lot of people in the middle who were wrestling with their conscience and wrestling with different aspects of this bill.
Susan Close, from the Labor Party, said she believed everyone was capable of making their point.
“This is a very important day for the women of South Australia and all the healthcare professionals who work in this incredibly difficult and complex part of health,” she said.
“People who work on termination of pregnancy do so under the shadow of the penal code.
“As long as it goes through the upper house, which we have every reason to assume it will, then it is no longer the case.”