Roe v Wade Overturned. How has Australia reacted to the controversial decision?

Even though an overwhelming majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in the USA, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in late June 2022, repealing laws set in place 50 years ago. This was achieved by a Supreme Court Justice vote of 6-3  along political lines (with three of the six ultraconservative justices having been appointed by former US President Donald Trump). 

As such, American women have fewer rights today than they have had in a half a century. The repeal now enables individual states to set their own benchmarks for abortion law. While several states are committed to upholding women’s health rights and a woman’s right to choose, others will now heavily regulate or ban abortion outright without exception. 

In some US states, this means:

  • Forcing victims of rape and incest to give birth
  • Forcing children as young as age ten to give birth
  • Forcing women to carry a pregnancy to term regardless of their own medical fitness, psychological fitness, or ability to provide for their child
  • Forcing women to carry unviable pregnancies to term
  • Forcing women to give birth under coercion or in domestic violence circumstances 
  • Forcing women to give birth without family or community support
  • Removing essential medical care for women who miscarry or have an ectopic pregnancy
  • Criminalising a woman seeking an abortion 
  • Criminalising women who miscarry
  • Criminalising those who aid or abet an abortion
  • Removing a woman’s right to her own bodily autonomy

Furthermore, some states are already suggesting state border checkpoints to prevent women from travelling out of their home state to access abortions in “safe” states.

(Abortion remains legal and accessible in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Minnesota, Colorado, Montana, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Vermont, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts).

(Moreover, one Supreme Court Justice has also recommended looking to repeal other existing legislation relating to access to contraception, “homosexual” sexual activity, and gay marriage). 

The shockwaves of these events are resonating worldwide. 


Australian Reactions to Roe V Wade Overturned Decision

With a minority exception, Australians worldwide and at home are appalled by the Roe V Wade overturned ruling by the US Supreme Court. 

Just a sample of statements made in response to the news include:

  • Royal Australian and New Zealand College of  Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) published a statement about the Roe V Wade overturned decision which states that “The College strongly supports the availability of abortion being an essential aspect of safe healthcare delivery, and stands with healthcare professionals across the world in protecting patients’ access to care”.
  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese: “a setback for women and their right to control their own bodies and their lives … a deeply personal decision … for an individual woman to make based upon their own circumstances … it is a good thing that in Australia, this is not a matter for partisan political debate”.
  • Katy Gallagher, Minister for Women: “devastating for many women … (Australians must) remain vigilant because hard-fought-for wins before our parliament can be taken away easily”.
  • Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC): “ devastating … highlights need for vigilance … abortion is healthcare. Access to abortion is a human right…”
  • Women’s Health Victoria, in a statement endorsed by 24 women’s health organisations: Regressive abortion legislation worldwide (may) impact local providers and people needing services … making it harder to access services for fear of judgement and discrimination” and that barriers remain for women seeking abortion, including cost, Medicare/visa status, location, social stigmas, and language barriers.
  • In New Zealand, abortion was completely decriminalised in 2020. NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated: “People are absolutely entitled to have deeply-held convictions on this issue … but those beliefs should never rob another from making their own decisions…”
  • Emily Maguire (Women’s Agenda): “(the Supreme Court’s decision) is a form of violence against women”

We have previously discussed the background of Roe v. Wade being overturned and the implications of its repeal for the USA – but why is this such a big news story here in Australia?


Why is this Outcome Important in Australia?

Australia has only recently legalised/decriminalised abortion in all states and territories, and every state places individual conditions on access to abortion. It is also still not easily accessible to women outside of major capital cities – and women in rural and remote areas, and those who are most disadvantaged, still struggle to access the care they so desperately need and deserve.

Abortion rights in Australia have been very hard-won – not by the activism of lawmakers, but by grassroots campaigning that reflects the point of view and demands of the overwhelming majority of Australians.

A global study of Australians in 27 countries showed that 76% of respondents aged between 16-74 currently support abortion rights. But, as proven by these events in the USA, the majority does not always rule. In Australia, like the US, there is a disproportionate presence of anti-abortionists in positions of political power. They obstruct and delay reform despite overwhelming public opinion.  

If nothing else, the Roe v Wade overturned ruling of June 2022 in the USA demonstrates how easily these rights could be removed. Julia Gillard warned in 2013 of “an Australia where abortion again becomes the political plaything of men who think they know better”. 

For example, ultraconservative Queensland Senator Matt Canavan has thrown his very vocal support behind the move. He is not alone – and while his is a minority view in Australia, it is one strongly held by many of the loudest and most powerful conservative voices. 

The Roe v Wade overturned ruling could reignite debate in Australia and elsewhere, and stigmatise women seeking abortion services.


The Law in Australia 

Abortion reform in Australia has been a long, slow process to get to where we are today. Abortion is now individually legislated by each Australian state. The legal, medical, and moral right of Australian women to access the reproductive healthcare they need is protected, including their right to do so without exposure to bullying and abuse.

Australian advocates are calling on our governments to do more – to further cement the legality of abortion and to also improve access to this essential medical service.


Legal Abortions in NSW & close to ACT

Gynaecology Centres Australia is a NSW- and close to ACT-based Women’s Health Clinic offering safe, legal first-trimester abortions to women of all ages.

We provide women with the world-class medical care they need and deserve, including access to surgical abortions as appropriate.

We also provide women’s health services, from contraception to cervical screening, and treatments of sexually transmitted infections, miscarriage management, and more, including vasectomies for men.

You have the right to the highest standards of medical care and to make your own decisions for your own body and life – without judgement

Contact us now to access clear, unbiased information and compassionate support. Our services are entirely confidential and you do not require a referral from your GP to visit our clinics.

Please call 02 9585 9599 or complete our online booking form.