Abortion reform likely to have bi-partisan support


p2160-Natasha-FylesThere appears to be bi-partisan support for reform to the Territory’s laws around the use of the pregnancy termination drug, RU486.
Health Minister Natasha Fyles (left) said this morning that “Northern Territory women should have the same access to RU486 as women living in other jurisdictions.”
This afternoon Opposition Leader Gary Higgins (below right) said the Opposition “supports the principle of bringing the Northern Territory into line with other Australian jurisdictions by legalising the pregnancy termination drug RU486.”
“Depending on the detail of the legislation, the Opposition will support these amendments,” he said.
p2239-Gary-HigginsHowever, the Government is talking about new legislation, rather than amendments. Said Ms Fyles: “We’re working with the Department to draft new ‘stand-alone’ legislation to deal specifically with termination of pregnancy and subsequent implementation of the changes to health service delivery.”
Under current legislation termination of pregnancy can only be performed in a hospital, and women who are under 14 weeks’ pregnant have to be examined by two doctors, including a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist.
Although she did not say how she would consult, Ms Fyles said she will be  consulting until late January on the following issues.
• removing the requirement for all termination of pregnancy procedures to be performed in a hospital;
• providing termination services in ‘out of hospital settings’ such as day surgeries and specialist clinics;
• ensuring that early termination using drugs such as RU486 is possible in ‘out of hospital settings’;
• allowing suitably qualified doctors (other than Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) to provide termination services for pregnancies under 14 weeks;
• ensuring doctors and other health staff who conscientiously object to involvement in a termination of pregnancy refer women to a doctor who can provide these services;
• including safe access zones around the premises where termination of pregnancy services are provided, to prevent women being harassed when attending and to give suitable protections to those working there;
• changing criminal offence provisions under the Criminal Code Act.
According to the Department of Health, under the proposed changes a woman would take RU486 as the first early termination medication, under the supervision of the doctor or a registered nurse or midwife as authorised by the doctor.
The woman would then be given a second medication (Misoprostol) to take later in the clinic or at home. The woman would need to remain in a location where she is able to access emergency surgical services. These two medications induce termination of pregnancy which has the same effect as a naturally occurring miscarriage.
Source: Media releases, DoH FAQs. 


  1. When the Leader of the Opposition indicates a bi-partisan support for this, is he speaking for both of them?

  2. Will the Health Minister introduce legislation similar to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act which has been used against anti-abortion activists conducting silent protests in public places for “ideological non-compliance”?
    What will define ‘harassment’ around premises where “termination of pregnancy services” are provided?
    Ensuring “doctors and other health staff who conscientiously object to involvement in a termination of pregnancy refer women to a doctor who can provide these services” continues the politicisation of conscience, but perhaps the Minister might ensure that ideological non-compliant counselling be included as the next step in the process towards termination of pregnancy.

  3. Russell, why would abortion be the only medical procedure which has legally mandated counselling. Doctors are already required to give information for informed consent so the patient understands the risks of the procedure. To answer your question that would count as harassment.
    Where does conscientious objection end? Do we have JW doctors neglecting to offer blood transfusions, Catholic doctors not offering advice on the use of condoms to a gay man, Asian doctors refusing to ask if a patient wants to donate their organs. This procedure has been legal in Australia for decades, and if a Doctor can’t handle that they should not be practicing in that area.
    Protesting outside clinics is harassment of individual women, if they want to protest outside their local members office or at Parliament House thats different. They are accessing a legal medical procedure, and should be left alone. If you want to change the system lobby the people who can change it.

  4. There are more than “two teams” in the Legislative Assembly so the term bi-partisan is irrelevant. There are five Independents in the current chamber.
    Poly-partisan is a better term as it’s more inclusive.

  5. @Morgan
    It’s a common misconception that terminating a pregnancy is legal in Australia. The way the laws in all states and territories are written, intentionally terminating a pregnancy is illegal, unless you and your healthcare provider follow strict criteria to allow you both to escape legal repercussions. Most states have a loophole/clause that if two doctors agree that continuing a pregnancy would cause harm to the pregnant woman, then she can be offered termination and the providers of the termination do not face criminal consequences.


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