Northern Territory women will soon have the same right to an abortion as others across Australia.
The parliament has passed legislation decriminalising abortion and legalising the medical termination of pregnancy, bringing the Territory in line with the rest of the country.
The Gunner Labor government delivered on the election commitment on Tuesday night, passing the bill 20 votes to four following a lengthy debate.
“We believe all Territory women are entitled to control over their lives,” Health Minister Natasha Fyles said.
Under the reforms, surgical and medical termination of pregnancies can be performed out of hospitals in day surgeries and specialist clinics.
A woman up to nine weeks pregnant can also chemically trigger a miscarriage at home using drugs such as RU486.
That means women in remote areas won’t have to travel hundreds of kilometres at great expense to Darwin or Alice Springs to access an abortion.
The changes also mean doctors other than obstetricians and gynaecologists will be allowed to provide termination services for pregnancies under 14 weeks.
There will be safe access zones around abortion clinics so patients and workers are not harassed by protesters.
And health staff who conscientiously object to involvement in an abortion must refer women to a doctor who can provide the service.
But terminations after 23 weeks will still only be legal if necessary to save a woman’s life.
Labor’s Gerry McCarthy and independents Terry Mills, Mark Guyula, and Gerry Wood opposed the bill.
Mr Wood, the Member for Nelson, said the reforms will take the NT back to “the dark ages”.
“It will make abortion more accessible and I have no doubt will increase the number of abortions in the Territory,” he said.
“We talk about stolen generations but if the Territory is losing 600 to 1000 unborn Territorians each year, isn’t that a stolen generation lost each year, why don’t we make a fuss about that?”
The reforms are expected to come into force in July.
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