Abortion: time to clarify Australia's confusing laws

Med J Aust 2004; 181 (4): 201-203.


  • Australian criminal law is a matter for states and territories. In relation to abortion, many laws are unclear and outdated, and are inconsistent between states and territories.

  • Doctors practise under time constraints and on a case-by-case basis. Most current laws have grey areas that leave doctors vulnerable to accusations, negative publicity and career damage, especially in the case of late abortions.

  • All jurisdictions should follow the Australian Capital Territory’s lead in allowing women to access abortion without fear of criminal prosecution.

  • Federal, state and territory governments should introduce a single clear national law on abortion, both in early and late pregnancy.

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  • Lachlan J de Crespigny1
  • Julian Savulescu2

  • 1 Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Parkville, VIC.
  • 2 University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.


Competing interests:

None identified.

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