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Abortion should be removed from the criminal law

Sarah Catt’s conviction shows the inappropriateness of Victorian 
abortion laws in contemporary society, says Barbara Hewson

15 October 2012

In October last year, Anand Grover, the UN Special Rapporteur on Health, produced a hard-hitting report, calling on states to refrain from using criminal laws to regulate sexual and reproductive health.

Urging governments to reconsider these laws “immediately”, he said: “Criminal prohibition of abortion is a very clear expression of state interference with a woman’s sexual and reproductive health because it restricts a woman’s control over her body, possibly subjecting her to unnecessary health risks.”

According to Grover, while public health goals can justify some degree of interference with personal freedoms, “it has been well documented that the public health goals are not realised through criminalisation; rather, they are often undermined by it”.

The rapporteur’s recommendations include decriminalising abortion, including related la...

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