In September the New South Wales state parliament voted to overturn the century old ban on abortion. This important healthcare reform marks a step forward in the fight for equality and bodily autonomy.
Abortion is now legal in all states, although it is still extremely restricted in South Australia, where it is only allowed under certain circumstances.
In recent months it has been young people, particularly young women, who have led the charge and reignited the abortion rights movement in NSW. Earlier this year high school students organised a 2000-strong rally that marched through the city centre.
This, coupled with the launch of a coalition of community groups, including the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, helped apply pressure to the state Liberal government.
Right-wing politicians from both the major parties resisted this change all the way. In the end a number of anti-choice amendments were made to the bill which water down women’s rights to some degree.
Nevertheless, the removal of abortion from the NSW criminal code is an important win. It removes the threat of women being charged for procuring an abortion, which has been a major issue in the past.
That said, the struggle for full bodily autonomy needs to be continued. Even when the procedure is legal it can still be difficult and costly. For example, in the Northern Territory there are very few clinics that offer the service, meaning that women have to travel great distances, leaving their communities and social networks behind.
Even in Victoria where abortion is considered reasonably accessible, barriers exist for people struggling financially or living in regional areas.
We need to continue to campaign for free and accessible medical and surgical abortions on demand in every state. The procedures need to be fully covered by the public health system, available in all hospitals, and accessible to those living in regional and remote areas.
By Meredith Jacka