Australia: Human Rights & Abortion Laws

Congratulations to Dr. Ronli Sifris, whose chapter advocating Australian abortion law reform has recently been published. Since completing her doctorate in 2011, she has been a full-time academic at Monash University’s Faculty of Law.  She can be emailed at ronli.sifris {at}

‘A Woman’s Right to Choose: Human Rights and Abortion in Australia’ in Paula Gerber and Melissa Castan (eds), Contemporary Human Rights Issues in Australia (Thomson Reuters, 2013) 251-273.


This book chapter considers the right to abortion and adopts the position that a woman has a right to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy pursuant to internationally recognised human rights norms. It then focuses specifically on the Australian law regulating this issue and explores the law relating to abortion in Australia through a “pro-choice” lens. The discussion begins by noting that abortion is a crime in the majority of Australian jurisdictions and by critiquing the categorisation of abortion within the criminal law paradigm. The criminalisation of abortion is problematic for a number of reasons. For example, it contravenes the notion that the right to terminate a pregnancy falls within existing human rights norms, it increases the stigma attached to abortion, and it undermines the need for certainty and clarity in the law. The chapter then proceeds to consider the law relating to abortion in the different Australian jurisdictions, and to evaluate these laws from a “women’s rights” perspective. Following this discussion of Australian law in general, it then delves into the most recent substantive reform of abortion legislation (the 2008 amendments to Victoria’s legislative framework) and argues that, from the perspective of the human rights of women, this legislation represents a giant step forward which nevertheless does not go far enough.

Contemporary Human Rights Issues in Australia, in which this chapter appears, is now available for purchase.
Book description  from publisher Thomson Reuters.

We look forward to seeing the new book by Ronli Sifris,  Reproductive Freedom, Torture and International Human Rights: Challenging the Masculinisation of Torture.
Book description from publisher Routledge.

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