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  • NT government will legalise abortion drugs outside hospitals

    Author: AAP

The NT government is moving to legalise the use of abortion drugs outside hospitals but advocates say the reforms don't go far enough.

Medical abortions are still a crime in the Northern Territory, but likely not for much longer thanks to new laws being devised by the government.

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The Labor government will introduce an abortion law reform bill in parliament next month to legalise the use of the RU486 pregnancy termination pill.

Abortion can currently only be performed surgically in a hospital, and women who are under 14 weeks' pregnant must be examined by two doctors, including a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist.

The NT is the only Australian jurisdiction not to allow the RU486 drug, meaning women in remote areas have to travel hundreds of kilometres at great expense to Darwin or Alice Springs to access an abortion.


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The proposed changes include safe access zones around abortion clinics so patients are not harassed by protesters, which is welcomed by the Human Rights Law Centre.

But HRLC legal advocacy director Adrianne Walters says other aspects still don't respect women as competent decision-makers.

The reforms would allow a woman up to nine weeks pregnant to chemically trigger a miscarriage at home using RU486 after getting approval from a doctor.

Other changes require women to get counselling on their choices before accessing terminations.

Ms Walters argued women should be able to get abortions at any stage of their pregnancy, but terminations after 23 weeks are currently only legal if necessary to save a woman's life.

She said under this "outdated" rule, a woman who has been raped or whose foetus has a fatal abnormality would be forced to carry the pregnancy to term.

"This is just plain cruel and hopelessly out of step with community values," Ms Walters said.

Under the new legislation, medical terminations could also be performed in day surgeries and specialist clinics and qualified doctors other than specialists could provide the service.

Doctors who conscientiously object to performing terminations would also be compelled to refer women to another doctor.

Opposition Leader Gary Higgins said the Country Liberals support the changes but Independent MP for Nelson Gerry Wood, a staunch Catholic, does not.

Mr Wood believes medical abortions are not safe and says the unborn have every right to live.

The new laws are expected to be passed by July.


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