Abortion legislation reform

The South Australian Law Reform Institute at the University of Adelaide Law School has released an independent report (PDF 10MB), examining South Australian Laws relating to abortion.

The report proposes 66 recommendations and these have been individually considered by the Department for Health and Wellbeing. Overall, the vast majority of recommendations are accepted, with 15 recommendations requiring deference to the Crown for specific legal advice to ensure the intended outcome is achieved in any proposed new legislation.

View the Department’s response (PDF 341KB).

What is the SALRI ‘Abortion: A Review of South Australian Law’ report?

The South Australian Law Reform Institute at the University of Adelaide Law School released an independent report (PDF 10MB) examining South Australian Laws relating to abortion.

Has the Department for Health and Wellbeing responded to the SALRI report?

Yes, the Department for Health and Wellbeing has responded to the SALRI report ‘Abortion: A Review of South Australian Law’. View the Department's response (PDF 341KB).

What is Early Medical Termination of Pregnancy?

Early non-surgical termination has been available in Australia since 2012. This involves taking two medications orally, 24-48 hours apart to terminate a pregnancy. The medications are called Mifepristone and Misoprostol and are referred to as Marie Stopes 2-Step. Early non-surgical termination is available once a pregnancy is detected via ultrasound (usually around 5 weeks) up to 9 weeks (63 days) gestation. It is more cost-effective and non-invasive compared with surgical termination. The medication for early non-surgical terminations can only be prescribed by doctors who are registered to prescribe the medication. Over one-third of all terminations in South Australia in 2016 were early non-surgical terminations.

What is Surgical Termination of Pregnancy?

A surgical termination is undertaken for pregnancies of any gestation consistent with the legislation and uses a combination of pre-treatment medication (to prepare the cervix for the procedure) and a surgical procedure (to carry out the termination). The most common surgical technique involves dilating the cervix and using a suction device. It is usually conducted as a day surgery procedure and usually requires a general anaesthetic.

How many Terminations of Pregnancy are there in South Australia?

South Australia is the only state or territory in Australia to report on terminations of pregnancy. Information is collected on every termination of pregnancy in South Australia, so there is a complete and accurate source of information. The data show that there were 4,346 terminations of pregnancy notified in South Australia in 2016, 95 fewer than in 2015. There were 13.2 terminations of pregnancy per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years.

What is the breakdown of termination of pregnancies performed in the 1st Trimester and 2nd Trimester?

In 2016, the majority (90.2%) of pregnancy terminations were performed in the first trimester. The proportion performed in the second trimester was 9.8%, similar to the average over the past five years (8.2%).

How do women in South Australia access a Termination of Pregnancy?

There is no referral required from a GP to access public services and women can self-refer. GP’s are legally required to refer women to another GP or service even if they have a conscientious objection to termination of pregnancy. All women who access a termination of pregnancy will be required to attend in person at a prescribed hospital or clinic on at least two occasions.

How do women in country South Australia access a Termination of Pregnancy?

In 2016, 797 women who resided in country South Australia had a termination of pregnancy. Only 97 of those (12.2%) were able to have a termination in their country area, with the rest needing to travel to the metropolitan area for the service.

What is the cost to women for Termination of Pregnancy in South Australia?

Most terminations of pregnancy that occur in SA are provided through the public health system. While women who have a surgical termination or pregnancy in a public clinic will not be charged, women who have a medical termination in a public clinic may be required to pay a gap for the medication of up to $47.00.

How long have Terminations of Pregnancy been available in South Australia?

Terminations of pregnancy became legal in South Australia in 1970.

What is a lawful Termination of Pregnancy in South Australia?

Termination of pregnancy is legal under the Criminal Law Consolidation Act only if:

  • two medical practitioners have personally examined the pregnant woman and have formed the view in good faith that:
    • the continuance of the pregnancy would involve greater risk to the life or injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman, than if the pregnancy was terminated, or
    • there is a substantial risk that if born, the child would suffer from serious physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped; and
  • the procedure is carried out in a prescribed hospital or clinic; and
  • the pregnant woman has resided in SA for more than two months; and the child is not capable of being born alive.

Or if:

the pregnancy is terminated by a medical practitioner in a case where he or she is of the opinion, formed in good faith, that the termination is immediately necessary to save the life, or to prevent grave injury to the physical or mental health, of the pregnant woman; and the child is not capable of being born alive

Or if:

the child is capable of being born alive, the termination is done in good faith for the purpose only of preserving the life of the mother

What impact have the 2012 changes (introduction of non-surgical termination) had on Termination of Pregnancy rates?

There has been no discernible impact. The termination of pregnancy rate has continued to decline annually since 1999.

Who can provide a Termination of Pregnancy in South Australia?  

Only doctors can provide a surgical termination of pregnancy. Medical terminations of pregnancy can only be undertaken by doctors who are registered with and certified by Marie Stopes Health.

How are doctors who are registered with and certified by Marie Stopes Health regulated?

Doctors wanting to become a certified prescriber or dispenser of medical termination of pregnancy medications through Marie Stopes Health must first register with the organisation and complete the necessary training modules online to become certified. These modules include information on the appropriate selection of women, the counselling of women, the need for patient consent, information on the risks and adverse events, and the need to follow up women who have been prescribed medicine for a termination of pregnancy.

Marie Stopes International Australia applied for the registration of medicines for the medical termination of early pregnancy to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and is the sole sponsor of the medicine in Australia. As these medicines are no longer patented, other applications to register these medicines for the same indications are possible and would be assessed by the TGA.

Further information

Any queries regarding this information should be directed to health.abortionenquiries@sa.gov.au. FAQs will be regularly updated with new questions.