By Alyssa Betts
Northern Territory women should be able to get abortions at any stage of their pregnancy, without needing a doctor’s approval, a legal rights advocacy group has said.
The recommendation is one of several made by the Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) in its response to the NT Government’s proposed pregnancy termination law reforms.
The Government is proposing changes including making it easier to get medical abortions, and requiring women to get counselling on their choices before accessing terminations.
The HRLC submission is broadly supportive of the changes.
But it said the Government’s changes would not alter the present law that forbids a woman to get an abortion after 23 weeks unless it would save her life.
HRLC legal advocacy director Adrianne Walters said that stipulation should be changed.
“What that means is that a woman who has been told that her foetus has a fatal abnormality and won’t survive, she doesn’t have any option — she has to keep the pregnancy,” Ms Walters said.
“If a woman was raped and she’s 24 weeks pregnant and she’s seeking an abortion — the law as it currently stands wouldn’t let her have that.”
The submission makes clear women should have the right to an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, without needing approval.
But it goes on to recommend that if doctor approval is made mandatory, that limit should not apply before 24 weeks.
It recommended the law should allow doctors the discretion to consider broader factors for abortions after 24 weeks, including a woman’s psychological and social circumstances.
“It’s important to bear in mind abortions after 20 weeks are extremely rare — around 1 to 2 per cent nationally — and they often occur in situations that are highly distressing,” Ms Walters said.