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Contributed by Robin Gibson and current at 16 December 2021.

Historically, abortion has been considered to be a crime and has been regulated by the criminal law. In 1969, the case of R v Davidson [1969] VicRp 85; [1969] VR 667 in Victoria, held that abortion could be performed where the life or health of the mother would be at risk if the pregnancy proceeded. After Davidson, the case of R v Wald (19710 3 NSWDCR 25 in New South Wales also permitted abortion in limited circumstances. However, the crime of procuring an abortion remained on the books and could be a threat to medical practitioners and patients. In the Australian Capital Territory, since 1993, abortion has been taken out of the criminal law and is now regulated under health legislation. The ACT was the first jurisdiction to do this.

Part 6 of the Health Act 1993 (ACT) deals with abortion. Section 80 of the Health Act 1993 (ACT) and Section 81 of the Health Act 1993 (ACT) spell out that abortion can only be carried out by a doctor in an approved medical facility (Section 82 of the Health Act 1993 (ACT)). Approval of a medical facility for the purposes of Part 6 of the Health Act 1993 (ACT) is given by the Minister who must not unreasonably refuse or delay a request for approval of a medical facility.

The legislation makes it clear that no-one can be compelled to carry out or assist in carrying out an abortion (Section 84 of the Health Act 1993 (ACT).

Provisions to Prevent Harrassment of Medical Staff or their Patients

Abortion clinics have, both in Australia and elsewhere, been subjected to protests by people with a religious or philosophical objection to the procedure. Consequently, Part 6 of the Health Act 1993 (ACT) also details provisions designed to protect both medical staff and their clients from harassment, whether by filming or recording their attendance at an approved medical facility or otherwise drawing attention to those people. The Minister orders a protected area around the approved medical facility in accordance with the definition in the Act. Activities such as harassment, intimidation, threats or protests are forbidden during the protected period which is defined as between the hours of 7am and 6 pm on each day when the approved medical facility is open. Sizeable penalties apply for breach of these provisions.

More information concerning Termination of Pregnancy can be found at

There is also a private clinic in Canberra, Dr Marie, which provides termination of pregnancy services.

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