- There is a kind of taint of criminality that hangs over abortion because the doctors performing it or the women who have it cannot be absolutely confident they’re on the right side of the line, in terms of the legal test.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding abortion law it has become a confusing, grey area, placing women and medical practitioners in difficult territory and at risk of criminal liability. Many general practitioners in New South Wales do not offer pregnancy termination services because of the fear of persecution or perhaps even prosecution. We see the persecution of women and their doctors outside reproductive health clinics. In Albury, for example, women are harassed every Thursday as they enter and leave a clinic offering a simple medical procedure. In rural and regional areas access is already an issue as there are only a few clinics. Women face extra costs for travel and accommodation, and the anxiety of persecution makes things even more fraught. Every woman has a right to privacy, respect, dignity and courtesy while accessing medical procedures.
Lawfulness is not the only question mark hanging over the situation in New South Wales. Given that abortion is still in the Crimes Act, there is a stigma and taboo attached to it. There is silence around it. The fact that no-one speaks about it leads to a lack of support and isolation at a difficult time in people’s lives. There is absolutely no reason for there to be shame and stigma surrounding a decision about one’s own body. I extend my hand to politicians across the spectrum to join me in bringing this antiquated law into the twenty-first century and aligning it with contemporary medical practice and community values. An overwhelming majority of Australians support a woman’s right to choose and it is time that we in this Parliament did so as well.