Most Australians support allowing women to have late-term abortions in at least some circumstances

Research involving more than 1000 Australians has found the vast majority — 87 per cent — support allowing abortion in the first 12 to 13 weeks, comprising 61 per cent who said it should be legal at this stage and a further 26 per cent who would allow it in certain situations. But qualified support persisted even for later stages of pregnancy, with 12 per cent of those polled saying abortion should be permitted in the second trimester and a further 57 per cent under certain conditions.

Although nearly half, or 48 per cent, of respondents thought abortion in the third trimester should be illegal, an equal proportion was prepared to allow it — 6 per cent without qualification and 42 per cent in set circumstances.

Victoria decriminalised abortion in 2008, but the procedure remains a crime in at least some circumstances in every other Australian jurisdiction except the ACT.

In Queensland, Cairns woman Tegan Leach is expected to reappear before the state’s courts this month charged with attempting to procure an abortion. If convicted, she could face up to seven years’ jail.

Ms Leach is understood to be the first woman to be charged with the offence under a 111-year-old clause in the Queensland criminal code.

Her partner, Sergei Brennan, is charged with supplying drugs to procure an abortion.

The poll, conducted by research firm Crosby/Textor and published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, also found that in only five of 16 specific examples of why a woman might seek an abortion did respondents believe a doctor performing the procedure should be struck off or face other professional sanction.

Lead author of the MJA article Lachlan de Crespigny, associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Melbourne, said abortion laws in most parts of Australia were complex and differed from state to state, leaving women and doctors unclear about their rights and obligations.

A spokesperson for NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos said the state’s laws, which allowed abortion in certain circumstances, “provide the right balance”.


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