Australia

Why is abortion still a crime in NSW?

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The Greens and activists want New South Wales follow Queensland and change its laws.

Queensland's move on Wednesday night to decrimalise abortion has been applauded around the country - but in contrast, NSW  remains one of the last hold-out where abortion is still technically illegal.

Abortion has been decriminalised in WA, NT, Victoria, Tasmania, the ACT and now, QLD

There are two options for women seeking a termination in NSW - medical and surgical.

According to sections 82, 83 and 84 of the New South Wales Crimes Act, abortion is considered criminal if performed unlawfully and can carry a maximum penalty of 10 years.

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NSW premier comments on QLD abortion vote
NSW premier comments on QLD abortion vote

Abortions in NSW are only considered lawful if a doctor deems the woman's physical or mental health is in danger.

Economic and social factors are also taken into account when making the decision.

Protestor Graham Preston is seen during the March together for Choice rally in Brisbane, ahead of proposed changes to Queensland's abortion laws.
Protestor Graham Preston is seen during the March together for Choice rally in Brisbane, ahead of proposed changes to Queensland's abortion laws.
AAP

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said on Thursday she would consider any new proposals to change the laws criminalising abortion “as it came”.

Ms Berejiklian said abortion is already decriminalised in the state in certain circumstances, such as when a pregnancy threatens the health of a woman.

“These are deeply sensitive matters and they’ve always been issues of conscience and our parliament’s always consistently dealt with these issues,” she said.

But The Greens and women's rights activists say that's not enough, and they're urging for an overall change of legislation. 

"NSW is now the last state in Australia where abortion is still technically a crime and it is past time that this outdated and offensive section is removed from the Crimes Act in NSW," NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said.

She added access to safe, affordable and legal abortion services should be a right for all women in NSW.

Anti-abortion protesters are seen outside Queensland Parliament House in Brisbane
Anti-abortion protesters are seen outside Queensland Parliament House in Brisbane.
AAP

The call was echoed by Women's rights organisation Fair Agenda.

"The system in NSW is hurting women; it is out of touch and out of date," Fair Agenda's executive director Renee Carr said.

"Queensland's historic reform was just passed with support from members in the ALP, LNP, Greens and an independent. This issue is above partisan politics, and it's time NSW brought its laws out of the dark ages."

In June, NSW became the fifth state to implement safe access zones outside abortion clinics.

This means it's illegal to communicate, film or intimidate a woman near a NSW abortion clinic.

Unique polls carried out by the Greens in the past show the majority of NSW residents don't realise abortion is still a crime in the state. 

It is believed one in three Australian women will have a termination in their lifetime, and an average of 80,000 are carried out nationwide every year.

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Dateline Explains: Australia's Abortion Laws
Dateline Explains: Australia's Abortion Laws

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