Until recently abortion continued to be a crime in both NSW and Queensland. Although it has now been largely decriminalised, pregnancy terminations are still not available through the public health care system. In NSW the typical cost of abortion continues to be about $500. This has the result that for many disadvantaged women, particularly those in regional and remote areas, it is still not accessible. Surgical abortions which are safer for women are increasingly difficult for women to access in many areas.
There are also other regular attempts to legislatively erode a woman’s reproductive rights, such as Fred Nile’s Bill known as Zoe’s Law which would recognise foetal personhood. If successful, this legislation would have rendered women procuring a late term abortion liable to imprisonment for up to 25 years and could be used to impose restrictions upon the behaviour of pregnant women.
The removal of children from women suffering disadvantage, particularly within the Aboriginal community and from women with mental health conditions and other disability, continues to constitute a major infringement of human rights in Australia. The commodification of women’s reproduction by the increasing use of overseas surrogacy arrangements by Australian couples also constitutes significant exploitation of vulnerable women.
For women giving birth, there is often a failure to provide continuity of care during pregnancy and to respect their autonomy during the birth. There is a failure in many areas to provide publicly funded midwives who can attend homebirths and births on country. Meanwhile many women continue to experience forced medical interventions or “birth rape” leaving many traumatised by the experience.