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Abortion laws need updating in line with fetal medicine advancements

Abortion laws need updating to keep in pace with fetal medicine advancements - Featured Image

Women whose babies are diagnosed with a fetal abnormality are being disadvantaged by Australia’s patchwork abortion laws, experts say.

Professor Caroline de Costa, from James Cook University, and Professor Heather Douglas, from the University of Queensland write about the barriers these women face in today’s Medical Journal of Australia.

“Medicare-funded diagnosis of fetal abnormality is now routinely offered to all pregnant Australian women — with the implication that a woman may choose to terminate the pregnancy if a serious abnormality is detected”, they write.

However they say that abortion laws haven’t kept pace with these developments.

Abortion is decriminalised in ACT, Victoria and Tasmania with various timeframe restrictions.

“Fetal abnormality is specifically discussed in the legislation in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, and covered by the decriminalisation of abortion in Victoria and the ACT; in practice, however, late abortion is restricted by health regulations in WA, SA and the NT”, de Costa and Douglas write.

Related: MJA – Termination of pregnancy: a long way to go in the Northern Territory

“In Queensland and New South Wales, the law does not refer to fetal abnormality at all.”

They are concerned these difference in laws could lead to extensive abortion ‘tourism’ to states that are decriminalised.

“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”.

To read the full article, visit the Medical Journal of Australia.

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