As of the end of July 2019, NSW was the only Australian state that continued to treat abortion as a criminal offence. In the first week of August 2019, however, proposals were due to be brought to state parliament to alter abortion laws in NSW to allow women unrestricted access to legal abortions in this state.


Current Abortion Laws in NSW


Since 1971, abortion law in NSW has been influenced by the Levine ruling. This established that abortion was lawful providing a doctor had a reasonable belief that there was “any economic, social, or medical ground or reason” that it was required to avoid “serious danger to a pregnant woman’s life or to her physical or mental health”. It stated that for an abortion to be lawful, it must be performed by a medical doctor. As such, abortions performed in Australia by a doctor prior to 20 weeks’ gestation have been lawful since 1971.

Legal implications of abortion included penalties of up to ten years’ imprisonment.


Abortion Bill Proposal


In the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019, a private members’ bill entered into NSW parliament during the week of July 29 2019, and backed by NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard and the Australian Medical Association (AMA), the bill would allow abortions to be legally performed by doctors for pregnancies up to 22 weeks’ gestation. This would bring NSW law into line with that of Queensland and Victoria. Now the decision is in the hands of the woman and not the doctor.

Under the bill, abortions could also be legally performed upon request for women beyond the 22nd week of pregnancy if two independent doctors verify its necessity based on all relevant medical considerations and the woman’s future circumstances, in terms of physical, social, and psychological factors.

Any doctor who has a conscientious objection to performing or recommending an abortion would be legally required to disclose their viewpoint as soon as possible after the patient’s request for an abortion. They would be legally obliged to refer her on or transfer her care to another medical practitioner who is known to have no such objections.


Legal Grey Area


The AMA publicly backs the NSW Abortion Bill, agreeing that the current guidelines for abortion inhabit a “grey area” legally and that both doctors and patients need and deserve a conclusive answer in terms of abortion laws.

While NSW abortion prosecutions are rare, they have occurred and this is challenging not only to the woman seeking an abortion but also to the doctor who performs the procedure.

  • For example: In 2006 Doctor Suman Sood was prosecuted and found guilty of performing an abortion in May 2002. This was in part due to the judge’s finding that she failed to properly counsel the woman seeking the abortion. It resulted in the doctor receiving a two-year good behaviour bond.
  • In 2017, a woman in Sydney was prosecuted for purchasing and self-administering a drug to cause a miscarriage.


Strong Debate


There are currently fifteen cross-party sponsors of the bill. While prior to the bill being introduced into NSW parliament Mr Hazzard had stated his belief that there would be a conscience vote on the bill, a heated debate is ensuing on the issue. As of August 7th 2019, and following hours of debate into the previous night, two senior NSW Ministers have drafted amendments to the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 to seek extra requirements including approval by a hospital advisory committee for abortions to be performed. We’re watching the outcome of this debate closely.


Contact Gynaecology Centres Australia


Gynaecology Centres Australia provides abortions for unwanted pregnancies and miscarriages by doctors with understanding and empathy. We have been performing lawful abortions up to 14 weeks since opening our first clinic in 1998, and we currently have five clinics located throughout NSW.The proposed changes to abortion laws in NSW will not alter how we practice at GCA.

For more information on abortion, as well as women’s health services and vasectomies, or to find your nearest clinic, contact us today via our “Contact Us” page on our website.