Bioethics Blogs

Abortion Should Be Decriminalised

Abortion remains a crime in Queensland and NSW in Australia. Queensland Parliament has just decided against decriminalising abortion. However, laws are obsolete and unclear, dating back over 100 years. Around 100,000 abortions are performed around Australia every year. In practice, early abortion is available on demand.

Abortion should be decriminalised. Early abortion should be freely and easily available on request. Late abortion should be freely and easily available at least for those who have a valid justification: significant fetal abnormality, threat to woman’s health or serious social reason, for example child pregnancy or rape. Family planning, including safe, free and open abortion services, is an essential part of a civilized society.

Failure to regulate abortion properly results in women being denied safe, effective abortion services, affecting their mental health and social welfare, as well as those of their family and society. It is stigmatising to women and health professionals to allow abortion to occur, while retaining it as a criminal offence. It is also moral hypocrisy.

With Lach de Crespigny, Dominic Wilkinson, Tom Douglas and Mark Textor, we conducted a survey which showed the majority of Australians believed early abortion (61%) should be fully decriminalised. Only 12% believed it should be unlawful. [deCrespigny, L., Wilkinson, D., Douglas, T., Textor, M., and Savulescu, J. (2010) ‘Australian attitudes to early and late abortion’.  The Medical Journal of Australia  Vol: 193(1) pp 9 – 12]


Simple yes/no polls may give a misleading picture of public opinion. Previous surveys permit only a limited view of community sentiment.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.