Social Work — Policy — Australia Essay Example

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Abortion has remained one of most controversial and a significant issue to most of societies globally including Australia. The involvement of government with its citizens in Australia as well as the societal acceptances of abortion makes abortion one of the interesting are to study in this country. Nickson & Shelley (2010, p. 456) indicates that abortion is termination of pregnancy at any given stage thus not ending with a live birth that can be because of miscarriage or purposely induced. In Australia, the first abortion law was started in 1901, when the country becomes a federation. Due to the fact that the country was still under the British rule, the country followed British Offences Against Person Act of 1861, which formed part of 2004 debate on Abortion, making abortion to be illegal under all circumstances. As the country gained more autonomy from its colonial master, it has made legislation and laws based on particular instances specific to each case such as rape, pregnancy complications among other notable aspects. Through judicial interpretations, the stance of the country towards abortion has been translated to include mental state of mothers. Secondly, the legislation and legalities of abortion in every state greatly vary across Australia. To start with, the Australian Capital Territory pursued same form of governance as the New South Wales until 2002, where it become the initial jurisdiction to fully legalize abortion in Australia.

Despite this stiff positions held by different public institutions in Australian on whether abortion is legal or not,, the issue of abortion is further complicated by views of different pro-life groups across different states , who usually seek to protect all rights of foetus. Although most of Australian citizens are a bit happy with the Australian policies, developed since 2010, the members mostly from the pro-life groups seek to ban any form of abortion and controversial RU486 Drug. Among the developed countries, Australia has one of the highest rates of abortion approximated at around 90,000 cases annually. Across the globeit is approximated that more than 50 million abortions globally, with 40% of them being unsafe, thus costing about 80,000 women their dear lives and series of lifelong disabilities (Chan 2011, p. 89). Different lobby groups such as Women’s Electoral group and various religious groups such as Australian Christian Lobby have prochoice and prolife respectively, thus further complicating this area. The main purpose of this paper is to critically evaluate the recent policy debates as far as of abortion is concerned in Australia

Critical assessment of the policy process

Sullivan (2009, p. 12) argues that policy process is approach that puts focal point onto the political process to the stakeholders. The policy scope is meso-scale and problem interpretation usually of political nature. The main aim is to determine, which means and process to be used and tries to explain role and influence of the stakeholders within the given policy process. It is clear that, there are different polices process developed to effectively monitor and regulate issues of abortion in Australia. Restrictions and policies on abortion in the country vary with jurisdiction having its criminal law systems. Most of the policies are based on offenses Against the Persons Act of 1861, which prohibits performances of unlawful abortions with either case law qualifications (Gibson 2008, p. 23).Across Australia, most of key politicians have avoided the topic of abortion. However, politician such as Senator Ron Boswell, Tony Abbott among others have all together referred to national policies regarding abortion as “national tragedy”. To start with there have been many controversies between politicians and lobby groups regarding the use of abortion pill referred to as RU 486 pill. The pill, which was developed by Etiennne- Emile Baulieu, a France national, has remained one of the controversial breakthroughs on the sector of medicine in the recent year. RU 486 is generally anti-hormone blocking effects of progesterone. This is the hormone, which allows for development of embryos in the uterus. RU 486 makes the fertilized eggs as well as uterine wall to separate from uterine wall and both removed through the vagina. In 1996, the RU 486 pill was prohibited by the federal parliament, although it was legal in other developed countries such as France since 1988, 1991 in UK and year 2000 in US. In 2005, the issue concerning availability of RU 486 pill was under investigation by senate enquiry. The issues was to be determined by TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) that decides both whether a given pharmaceuticals should be made available as well as form of availability. Mr Tony Abbott, the then minister of health had used the ministerial power in banning availability of RU 486 pills from Australian Market (Nickson & Shelley 2010, p. 455). Therefore, determination of the availability of RU 486 pill was under TGA through a Private members Bill that would take away power from the minister. Different lobby groups such as the religious groups complicate the issue of RU 486 among other issues pertaining abortions such as religious groups, who are pro-life, while the feminist groups, supporting abortion (Nickson & Shelley 2010, p. 456). This has affected the views of public, especially the Christians, some of who are lost between views of lobby groups and church, thus shaping policies on abortion. Depending on state concerned, there is interpretation of health or life, with varying degrees of liberties. In New South Wales, case laws provide same indications and states that the social economical factors are considered. There is an Abortion law of Australian Capital Territory, where criminal law of the New South Wales is relevant, and presumably allowing performances of abortion on same grounds. For instance, in Queensland, the laws regarding abortions are contained in the Sections 225, 226 as well as 228 of The Code or Queensland criminal code, which is statutory codifications of common law adopted from Hippocratic medical ethics of several century ago (Chan 2011, p. 106). In this state, the judges obfuscated performance of abortion in last 60 years, thus becoming enforceable in current society. Generally, there is no any court of appeal in the country, which have yet considered the period when abortions in any of the states is lawful, thus greatly avoiding the issue. The policies process touching on abortion in Australia is also affected by views held by other notable groups such as the Public Health Association of Australia, state branches of association and women health special interest. These groups have taken the appropriate steps aimed at keeping sate and federal members of parliament aware on views of association as well as health consequences of all restrictions regarding the access of safe, accessible and affordable abortion services. The association continues to provide evidences based on information concerning abortion in Australia in accessible formats and advocates for comprehensive national approach to sexual and reproductive health (Godman 2005, p. 207).

Critical assessment of the policy itself

After the formation of The National Pro-Choice Coalition, which is one of dominate voice of the pro-life in Australia, the views of many Australians, on whether to have abortion or not have drastically increased. Carol Berry, who is one of representative from National Pro-Choice Coalition, indicates that their organization aims at providing comfort, conducting research and giving answer questions, into abortion. She categorically points out that, over two decades have shifted to 50% from 30% due to major lack of strong national policies addressing the issue of abortion. By developing the strategic policies focusing on the rights of women, death rates resulting from abortions have highly reduced. For instance, in 2010 the legal and constitutional affair committee suggested removal of abortion from criminal laws to other laws governing the practise of medicine in the country (Adelson 2011, p. 89). The level of sensitivity of the Australian views as far as abortion is concerned has implications on other debates such as ethnic. There have been permissive altitudes, which are elicited when debates about the euthanasia and use of technology for human enhancements. Godman (2005, p. 200) indicates that Australia supports access to abortion including late abortions in some circumstances and liberal abortion law reforms. According to Australian bureau of statistics, it is estimated that at least one woman dies from backyard abortion on daily basis (Godman 2005, p. 206). Therefore, there is a great need of developing policies arguments supported by Federal Parliament for women in accessing the RU486 pills among others. Provision of abortion services is a subject to general body of laws regulating practises of medicine.


One of the major recommendations as far as effective monitoring of abortion cases are concerned in Australia is a mandatory notification of cases concerning abortions, in line with the South Australian system of data collection in all the states and territories. By adopting this method of data collection, all states will be able to cover concerns as far as privacy issues in relation tom the changes in collection Medicare’s information are concerned. The data will be patient de-identified, where notifications of abortion cases would take place in ways where there is no identification of the individual patients. Further, besides being more comprehensive with regard to coverage, the a South Australian style of collection of data, will provide informative data sets, that is; information regarding abortion its self and demographic information with regard to women taking place in abortion activities. This will ultimately provide more accurate picture of incidences of abortion cases in Australia (Adelson 2011, p. 55). By adopting this system of data collection regarding abortion cases, it would require nationally coordinated approaches as well as legislative changes in all the states and territories. The unified national approach to be carried out through the Health ministers Advisory council and standing committee of the Attorney general (Gibson 2008, p. 10). The approach of improving on data collection on abortion will take time and with some notable difficulties.

For instance, there was failed attempt of recommending uniform criminals laws regarding abortion some years back. Leaders in some of states and territories have already indicated that they are not interested in pursuing uniform national reporting as far as abortion is concerned. The other recommendation is to streamlining the issues of abortion to stop being a clash of the social conservatives, who strongly oppose the issues of abortion and feminists who supports the issue of abortion. To achieve this, there is need to carry out further research as well as national training sessions to enable the two groups to be united, thus improved views regarding abortion (Adelson 2011, p. 23).


To summarize the above case study, abortion in Australia remains one of divisive area as ever, although majority of Australian feels comfortable with current abortion legislations. Australian states are the ones responsible for their own type of legislations on abortion and not on the federal level. Every state: New South Wales, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, Western Territory, Northern Territory, Victoria and South Australia have come up with their own legislation on abortion, although majority re similar. Pro-choice and Pro-life groups exist in the country, though they are not close to as vociferous and violent as compared to Australian extreme groups. These notable groups serve as voices for those Australian people who feel strongly about the issue of abortion in one way or another. Further, the issue of abortion is further complicated by the as the topic is seen to be a conflict between social conservatives and feminists among other notable groups. For instance, the feminist have for a long time supported the issues of abortion to preserve the health and life of women. On the other hand, the social conservatives such as Christian Social Union of Bavaria among other groups such as religious groups have taken a prolife position as far as all forms of abortion are concerned, thus highly conflicting with the feminist. In conclusion, most Australians believe there is great reason for alarm at sharp increase in the area of abortion annually. This is due to the fact that, as 30% of girls will carry out abortion in their lifetimes if the trend is not well legislated.


Adelson, P 2011, A survey of women seeking termination of pregnancy in New South Wales. The Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 163, no. 8, p. 73

Chan, A 2011, Pregnancy outcome in South Australia 2010, Pregnancy Outcome Unit, SA Health, Adelaide.

Gibson, R 2008, Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, Australian National University, Canberra.

Godman, K 2005, Induced abortion in Western Australia 1999–2004: report of the WA Abortion Notification System, Government of Western Australia Department of Health, Perth.

Nickson, J, & Shelley, A 2010, Use of interstate services for the termination of pregnancy in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 26, no. 5 p. 456

Sullivan, A 2009, Australia’s mothers and babies 2002, National Perinatal Statistics Unit ,Sydney