Sunday, September 17, 2006

Our Common Cause: Decriminalising abortion

The issue of decriminalising abortion is part of the ALP’s platform for the November 25 Victorian state election, but Premier Steve Bracks is keen to downplay this. Pregnancy termination services (abortion) remain on Victoria’s criminal code so women have access to abortion only under common law, through Justice Menhennitt’s 1969 ruling that permits abortion when it is necessary to protect the life or health of a woman. Including abortion on the criminal code stigmatises what is essentially a medical procedure and should, therefore, be dealt with as a health issue. For so long as abortion is defined as a crime, publicly funded abortion services will be limited, adversely affecting women from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and rural areas in particular. The ALP state conference in May voted to amend Victoria’s Crimes Act to ensure that “no abortion be criminal when performed by a legally qualified medical practitioner at the request of the woman concerned”.

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