Experts’ recommendations become landmark law

Scales of Justice

With the successful passing of abortion legislation in the South Australian Parliament, the State’s abortion laws have been ‘brought into the 21st century’. Recommendations made by legal experts from the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) based at the University of Adelaide’s Adelaide Law School, have led to historic changes to the law.

“This landmark Act highlights the role and work of the independent South Australian Law Reform Institute,” said the Director of SALRI, the University of Adelaide’s Professor John Williams.

“The topic of abortion law reform raised significant legal, health, ethical, policy and practical questions and our review of the law and our recommended changes proved complex and sensitive work.”

“Our main focus was to recommend that abortion legislation was moved from an outdated criminal law to a health focus.” Director of SALRI, the University of Adelaide's Professor John Williams,

In February 2019 the Attorney General the Hon. Vicki Chapman MP asked SALRI to inquire into and report in relation to the topic of abortion, with the aim of modernising the law in South Australia and adopting best practice reforms.

When the Act was passed the Attorney General said it was ‘a historic day for women and I think it is a historic day for the transformation of our management of this particular area of law. We have brought it into the 21st century’.

The Termination of Pregnancy Act 2021 passed the House of Assembly just after 2 am on Friday 19 February 2021. 29 politicians in the Lower House supported the bill against 15 who tried to stop it in a conscience vote. MPs and supporters embraced after the abortion law reforms were passed.

“Our main focus was to recommend that abortion legislation was moved from an outdated criminal law to a health focus,” said Professor Williams.

“During our review we examined the origins and operations of the South Australian law dating back to 1969, interstate law, similar reviews undertaken in comparable jurisdictions, available research, the many responses and submissions we received during the consultation process as well as contemporary medical practice and procedures.”

SALRI’s 550 page report Abortion: A Review of South Australian Law and Practice, which contained 66 recommendations to law and practice, was delivered to the Attorney General in October 2019. SALRI’s work was widely acknowledged on all sides of the political spectrum during the parliamentary debate as well as receiving the commendation of the Law Society of South Australia.

‘SALRI received 2885 online survey responses and about 340 further submissions ranging from a single sentence to hundreds of pages,” said Deputy Director of SALRI, the University of Adelaide’s Dr David Plater.

“We conducted five roundtable discussions with interested parties and organisations in Adelaide, and further meetings were conducted in Whyalla, Port Augusta, Ceduna and Port Lincoln, as well as individual and small group meetings with metropolitan, rural and interstate medical and health practitioners and experts in this area.”

Professor Williams expressed his appreciation to the report’s authors and the valuable background research carried out by students of the Adelaide Law School’s Law Reform class.

“I would like to thank all who took part in this important reference and for the many insightful comments and submissions that SALRI received,” he said.

SALRI's previous work in such diverse areas as computer evidence, succession law, LGBTIQ discrimination, a relationships register, surrogacy, provocation and other defences, family violence and health safe access zones were accepted and led to major changes to law and practice.

Tagged in abortion, law