The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) is calling on states and territories to step into the 21st century and respect women’s right to choose.
“For a country as progressive and fortunate as Australia, it is unacceptable that in a number of states abortion is still a crime,” said Australian College of Nursing CEO Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward FACN.
ACN demands New South Wales and Queensland to decriminalise abortion and take active measures to provide women with a real choice. In South Australia, abortion is a crime unless certain exceptions apply and this needs to be reviewed.
“Lip service and legislation alone are not enough. Even once decriminalised, governments must invest in services that support women. Tasmania for example, has decriminalised abortion, yet there are no clinics available in the state and women have to travel to the mainland for care,” Adjunct Professor Ward said.
“We acknowledge the states and territories that have modernised their regulations however women should not be disadvantaged due to their location. Consistency in abortion laws across the country should be enforced.”
In 2015, a study conducted by Lonergan Research on Public views on Abortion in NSW found 87 per cent of NSW residents believe women should be able to have an abortion, while 58 per cent indicated that women should be able to obtain one if they wish. A poll commissioned by Fair Agenda in 2017 found 82 per cent of respondents in Queensland agreed that abortion should be legal for a woman, in consultation with a medical professional.
“There is evidence that the Australian community supports a woman’s right to a legal abortion. We should be amending our laws to appropriately match contemporary public opinion,” said Adjunct Professor Ward.
“ACN supports the International Council of Nurses’ Position Statement on Women’s Health which states ‘Women’s right to health and well-being must be protected throughout the lifespan… During their reproductive years women need control over their reproductive health rights.’¹
“As key patient advocates, nurses have a pivotal role in protecting women and informing them of their options.
“It is long overdue for women to be given the freedom and right to choose.”
Earlier this year ACN gave input to the Review of termination of pregnancy laws in Queensland, which highlighted the need for legal frameworks to support the human rights choices of women and the value of incorporating equitable access to appropriate counselling services into law.
Adjunct Professor Ward FACN is a member of the Medical Panel of the Women’s Electoral Lobby Round Table on Abortion Law Reform and is an advocate for its campaign to decriminalise abortion in Australia.
¹ International Council of Nurses (2012). Women’s health: Position Statement. Retrieved from: http://www.icn.ch/images/stories/documents/publications/position_statements/A19_Womens_Health.pdf