Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform in the Northern Territory


This article applies to health services and other organisations involved in termination of pregnancy.

Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (NT)

Please be advised that the Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Legislation Amendment Bill 2021 (NT) (the Bill) passed the Northern Territory Parliament on 30 November 2021 and received Royal Assent on 15 December 2021. The Bill commenced on the day after assent and amended the Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Act 2017 (NT) (the Act) and the Termination of Pregnancy Law Reform Regulations 2017 (NT) (the Regulations).

The Bill aims to bring the Northern Territory’s laws regarding abortion more in line with several other Australian jurisdictions, which provide for termination of pregnancy more readily between 20-24 weeks of gestation.

Termination of pregnancy at not more than 24 weeks

The Bill significantly increases the timeframe for which a medical practitioner can perform a termination of pregnancy on a woman. Currently, the Act allows the termination of a pregnancy on a woman who is not more than 14 weeks pregnant. However, the Bill increases the timeframe, permitting a medical practitioner to perform a termination on a woman who is not more than 24 weeks pregnant, if the medical practitioner considers the termination appropriate in all the circumstances, having regard to:

  • all relevant medical circumstances; and
  • the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances; and
  • professional standards and guidelines.

The Bill also removes the reference to a ‘suitably qualified medical practitioner’, and instead refers to a ‘medical practitioner’.

Termination of pregnancy at more than 24 weeks

The Bill replaces section 9 of the Act to provide for the circumstances in which a medical practitioner can perform a termination on a woman who is more than 24 weeks pregnant. The Bill provides that if a woman is more than 24 weeks pregnant, a medical practitioner can terminate the pregnancy if:

  • the medical practitioner has consulted with at least one other medical practitioner who has assessed the woman; and
  • each medical practitioner considers the termination is appropriate in all the circumstances, having regard to each of the matters mentioned above.

Prescribed information

The Bill also amends regulation 8 of the Regulations, which prescribes the information required to be provided to the Chief Health Officer when the termination of a pregnancy is performed. The Bill requires that a medical practitioner provide the following information:

  • the date of birth of the woman who received the termination;
  • whether the woman who received the termination is an Aboriginal person;
  • the region of the usual place of residence of the woman who received the termination;
  • whether a follow up appointment in relation to the termination was arranged;
  • the date the termination was performed or initiated;
  • whether the termination was performed or initiated in an emergency situation under section 10 of the Act;
  • the method of termination;
  • the number of gestational weeks at which the termination was performed or initiated;
  • the full name and provider number of:
    • the medical practitioner who performed or initiated the termination or directed the performance or initiation of the termination; and
    • for a termination performed at more than 24 gestational weeks – any other medical practitioner who was consulted and who assessed the woman prior to the termination;
  • the location where the termination was performed or initiated;
  • for a termination by surgical procedure, or by a combination of both a surgical procedure and use of a termination drug – the name of the premises where the surgical procedure was performed;
  • for a termination by use of a termination drug – whether the woman who received the termination drug was informed of the requirement to remain within 2 hours driving distance of a hospital.

In amending this regulation, the Bill seeks to simplify and streamline the information that is required to be provided in the different situations under which a termination may be performed.

Please click here to access the full Bill.


Contact

For further information please contact the Law Compliance team:

Phone: 1300 862 667

Email: info@lawcompliance.com.a