Timeline

2013 - 21 November - House of Assembly endorses amendments and the bill is passed.  Abortion is decriminalised in Tasmania.

2013 (November 21) Legislative Council passes the Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill 2013 with amendments

2013 (November)  The Standing Committee tables its report and findings

2013 (June 12) Legislative Council votes to refer the bill to a standing committee which hears evidence over several months

2013 (April 26) PBAC recommends Federal Health Minister includes Mifepristone Linepharma  and Misoprostol (GyMiso) on the PBS

2013 (April 21) Reproductive Health (Access to Terminations) Bill passes lower house, slightly amended with a vote of 13 to 11 

2013 (April)  The Minister for Health, Hon Michelle O'Byrne tables a revised bill in parliament http://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/bills/Bills2013/pdf/24_of_2013.pdf 

2013  (March) The Minister for Health, Hon Michelle O'Byrne, released a draft bill and information paper.  Public consultation is open until 5 April  http://www.dhhs.tas.gov.au/pophealth/womens_health 

2013  (February/March) Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee considers an application to list Mifepristone Linepharma on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

2012  (August) Mifepristone Linepharma (RU 486) registered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for wider use in Australia following an application by Marie Stopes International Australia.

2012  (July) representatives of key community based organisations met with the Minister for Health and subsequently held meetings with other members of parliament to advocate for law reform.

2011  (August) Jenny made a submission to the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute asking that the Institute consider the case for reform and recommend a legislative model for Tasmania.  The TLRI initially received the submission with interest but subsequently refused to comment or respond in any way.

2011  (May) Jenny met with the Minister for Health and representatives from each of the three major parties to discuss the current state of abortion law in Tasmania.  Meetings with MPs and community sector orgs continued into 2013. 

2011  (Feb) President of Reproductive Choice Australia, Leslie Cannold and Secretary Jenny Ejlak wrote to the (then) Attorney-General and Minister for Health pointing out the problems with Tasmanian criminal law as it relates to abortion and urged them to consider reforming the law. 

2010  (July, November) Secretary of Reproductive Choice Australia, Jenny Ejlak convened meetings with representatives of key Tasmanian community sector organisations and individuals to discuss the implications for Tasmania of the Queensland trial, and to seek support for a law reform campaign for Tasmania.

2010  (October) R v Leach and Brennan.  The young woman and her partner were tried in the Cairns District Court.  She was able to be acquitted of a crime only through the semantics of a legal definition of the word ‘noxious’ and a sympathetic jury.

2009  (April) Police search the young woman’s house as part of an unrelated investigation and find the empty blister package from the medication. Shortly afterward she is charged with procuring her own abortion under Queensland criminal laws which are very similar to Tasmania’s. 
While many doctors and ‘backyard abortionists’ had previously been charged with abortion offences in Queensland and other states and territories, this was the first time that the woman herself had been charged.

2008  (December) a young woman in Cairns obtains mifepristone (RU486) from overseas and takes the drug to terminate her first trimester pregnancy. 

2008 Victoria becomes the second jurisdiction to decriminalise abortion with the Abortion Law Reform Act 2008.

2006 Reproductive Choice Australia and GetUp! Jointly ran a campaign to repeal the restrictions and ministerial control over the importation of mifepristone (RU486).

2006  R v Sood (NSW) Dr Sood was found guilty of performing an unlawful abortion.  She was deregistered as a medical practitioner and served a non-custodial sentence.

2002  The Australian Capital Territory became the first Australian jurisdiction to completely decriminalise abortion with the Crimes (Abolition of Offence of Abortion) Act 2002

2001  Medical Student complains to Tasmania Police about a two doctors and a patient allegedly committing an offence under sections 134 and 135 of the Criminal Code Act.  The Police investigate, demand public hospital records.  Government decides it does not want women or doctors to be charged with a criminal offence for providing or receiving health services.  Parliament is recalled and female MPs from across parties work together to develop and guide a bill through both houses resulting in the addition of section 164.  Sections 134 and 135 are not repealed.  Police cease their investigation.

2001  Anti abortion extremist Peter Knight enters the Fertility Control Clinic in Melbourne intending to kill all occupants and burn the building. He shot and killed the clinic security guard before being restrained until police arrived. He was later convicted of murder and is currently in prison. 

1998  Two doctors were arrested and charged with unlawful abortion in Western Australia. The charges were dropped when the WA parliament introduced the Amendment (Abortion) Act 1998 which outlined restricted conditions for lawful abortion. 

1996  Conservative MP Brian Harradine introduced an amendment to the Therapeutic Goods Act to only allow mifepristone (RU486) into Australia with the personal approval of the Federal Minister for Health. 

1988 Mifepristone (RU486) first available in Europe for medical termination of pregnancy.

1988  the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that provisions in the Criminal Code which prohibited abortion were invalid becausethey were in conflict with the ‘right to life, liberty and security of the person’ enshrined inthe Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Since then abortion has been regulated by the body of law that covers all medical procedures. 

1987  Last known prosecution for abortion in Victoria. In June 1987 a magistrate dismissed11 charges of unlawfully procuring amiscarriage against a specialist, Dr IanMcGoldrick.

1986  R v Bayliss and Cullen(Queensland) Drs Bayliss and Cullen were acquitted with Judge McGuire relying on the Menhennit ruling to determine whether an abortion is lawful.  To date this is the last prosecution of doctor in Qld.

1972  R v Wald (NSW) Dr Wald was acquitted - Justice Levine’s ruling set a precedent that a doctor may consider theeconomic and social impact of continuing with a pregnancy in addition to physical and mental health concerns.

1969  South Australia became the first state to amend its criminal law rather than rely on judicial precedent.  The Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 was amended to allow abortion in restricted circumstances.

1969  R v Davison (Victoria) relying on the 1939 Bourne case in the UK, Justice Menhennit ruled that abortion was lawful if carried out to preserve a woman’s mental or physical health.

1967  Abortion Act is passed in the United Kingdom, repealing sections of the Offences against the Person Act 1861.

1967  R v McIntosh (Tasmania) McIntosh was convicted of performing abortions (the sentence is unclear from available records).

1963  R v Luttrell (Tasmania) Luttrell was convicted and sentenced to four years prison for performing abortions.

1961 – 1969 in Victoria 16 chargeswere laid against doctors for abortionand about 11 charges were laidagainst ‘backyard abortionists’.

1939  Editorial The Lancet, UK  “…although we may still lack a perfect knowledge of an aspect of the law that vitally affects medical and surgical practice, compulsory pregnancy for the victims of criminal assaults is an idea abhorrent to civilised society.” 

1939  R v Bourne (UK) Dr Bourne was acquitted after Mr Justice Macnaghten addressed the jury saying that ‘life depends on health’, that health is a broad concept and that doctors must be allowed to use their judgement. 

1924  Criminal Code Act (Tasmania) enacted. Abortion sections 134 and 135 based on the United Kingdom’s Offences against the Person Act 1861.  Sections of this act relating to abortion were repealed in the UK in 1967. 

 

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