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Time to repeal outdated abortion laws in New South Wales and Queensland

Recent developments regarding abortion law in NSW and Queensland carry significant implications for doctors

In New South Wales and Queensland, abortion is a criminal offence, unless it is deemed to be lawful. The doctor who provides the termination, those who assist and the woman herself may all be prosecuted under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) or the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld). The question of when an abortion is lawful is unclear. In NSW, the test for lawfulness of abortion was considered in R v Wald in 1971.1 In this case, the judge found that an abortion may be justified where:

the accused … had an honest belief on reasonable grounds that what they did was necessary to preserve the woman involved from serious danger to their life, or physical or mental health, which the continuance of the pregnancy would entail, not merely the normal dangers of pregnancy and childbirth, and that in the circumstances the danger of the operation was not out of proportion to the danger intended to be averted.1

In regard to mental health, the judge found that the doctor may take into account “the effects of economic or social stress that may be pertaining to the time”.1 In Queensland, the defence in section 282 of the Criminal Code allows for surgical operations on and, since…