Time for Change? A look at Queensland’s abortion laws

Date: December 14, 2016


Queensland has the most restrictive laws relating to abortion in Australia.  In Queensland, abortion is still considered a crime under the State’s criminal code (Criminal Code Act 1899 (QLD) (the Act).

Under the Act, any person who carries out, or assists with, an abortion may be liable to criminal prosecution. This includes the woman herself, unless continuing the pregnancy poses serious danger to the mother’s life or her physical or mental health. Currently, women can be jailed for up to seven years and doctors for up to 14 for contravening the relevant provisions of the Act

Across the rest of the country, abortion is legal albeit with limitations on when and where the procedure can take place. In Western Australia, an abortion is legal up to 20 weeks with some restrictions applying to those under 16 years of age. After 20 weeks, access to abortion becomes restricted.

While abortion is still a crime for women and doctors in New South Wales, social, economic and medical factors can be considered and therefore access is not as restricted.

In Queensland, on 17 August 2016, Rob Pyne MP introduced the Health (Abortion Law Reform) Amendment Bill 2016 which seeks to establish that a woman does not commit an offence by performing, consenting to or assisting in an abortion herself. It also provides that only a doctor may perform an abortion and an abortion on a woman who is more than 24 weeks pregnant may only be performed if two doctors agree that the continuation of the pregnancy would involve a greater risk of injury than if the pregnancy were terminated. Further, it creates patient protection or safe zones of at least 50 meters around any abortion facility.

The recent spotlight on the state’s abortion laws has been ignited by a decision in April of this year, where a 12 year old girl had to get the permission of the Queensland Supreme Court before undergoing the procedure. In the judgment, Justice Duncan McKeenan found it was clearly in the best interest of the girl to administer drugs that would terminate her pregnancy (Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service v Q [2016] QSC 89). However, as permission had to be granted by the court, this delayed the abortion by a month, causing further emotional trauma.

Watch this space for updates on any changes with respect to abortion laws in Queensland.


The Health Law team

« Back to Insights