• Reliable opinion polling consistently shows that around 80% of Australian adults support a woman’s right to choose.

    Public opinion

    The 2003 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes (AuSSA) found that 81% of those surveyed believed a woman should have the right to choose whether or not she has an abortion.  The 2003 AuSSA also found that religious belief and support for legal abortion are not mutually exclusive, with 77% of those who identify as religious also supporting a woman’s right to choose [1]. 

    A survey conducted by Auspoll in 2009 of over 1000 Queenslanders found that almost 4 out of 5 voters wanted the law changed so abortion is no longer a crime [2]. 

    A review of over 20 years of data on attitudes to abortion published in October 2009 found that “more than half the electorate in Australia and in Queensland support freedom of choice, and a further third support the availability of abortion in special circumstances… As far as attitudes are concerned, Queensland is no different from the rest of Australia.” [3]

    On average, between only 5% - 9% of the Australian community are opposed to abortion in every circumstance [4].  

     

    Expert groups

    The Royal Australian College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists [5],  the Public Health Association of Australia [6],  and Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia [7] all advocate for the decriminalisation of abortion and equity of access to abortion services.

    A 2010 survey published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that 85% of practicing obstetricians and gynaecologists are not opposed to abortion, and 90% of these doctors agree that abortion should be available through the public health system in all states and territories [8].

    The Australian Medical Association Queensland says current abortion laws are unclear and do not provide certainty for doctors or for women. The AMAQ stated that Queensland’s “abortion laws are a barrier to a doctor's first duty - best patient care” [9]. 

    In late 2011, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Health Anand Grover released a report examining the interaction between the right to health and criminal laws relating to sexual and reproductive health. In it, he stated that the right to sexual and reproductive health is a fundamental part of the right to health. He also stated that criminal and other legal restrictions on abortion violate the right to health, and that the application of such restrictions as a means to achieving public health outcomes is ‘often ineffective and disproportionate’. The report urged all UN member states to decriminalise abortion [10]. 

     

    References:

    [1] K Betts “Attitudes to Abortion in Australia: 1972 to 2003” People and Place 22, 2004.

    [2] Queensland voters’ attitudes towards abortion Report prepared by Auspoll, May 2009. Polling commissioned by Children by Choice.

    [3] K Betts “Attitudes to Abortion: Queensland and Australia in the 21st Century” People and Place vol 17, 2009.

    [4] Australian Reproductive Health Alliance What Do Australians Think About Abortion 2005. Available online at http://www.arha.org.au.

    [5] S Elks and R Barrett “Peak medical body urges repeal” The Australian, 15 October 2010.

    [6] Public Health Association of Australia Women’s Health Special Interest Group Abortion in Australia: Public Health Perspectives 3rd edition, 2005. Available online at http://www.phaa.net.au/documents/phaa_abortion_kit.pdf.

    [7] Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia (Inc) Position Statement: Abortion. Version 2, published 24 August 2004. Available online at http://www.shfpa.org.au.

    [8] CM de Costa, DB Russell and M Carrette ‘Views and practices of induced abortion among Australian Fellows and specialist trainees of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ Medical Journal of Australia (2010; 193 (1): 13-16). (Available online at mja.com.au)

    [9] Australian Associated Press “Doctors call for abortion law certainty” Brisbane Times, 27 October 2010.

    [10] Right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Available in full on the United Nations website at http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/66/254 

    Page last modified on: Monday, 12 March 2012

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