Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy. Significant changes relating to this law came into effect on 3 December 2018. The changes made effect criminal responsibility, but also change the law in relation to forcing or stopping someone from having an abortion, and prohibited behaviour near termination services. Before having an abortion you should get legal advice.
If children or adults don't have the legal capacity to make decisions about their health, a court or tribunal may have to decide whether they can make a decision to have an abortion. Before making an application to a court or tribunal you should get legal advice.
Having an abortion in Queensland
Protection from criminal responsibility
Significant changes relating to this law came into effect on 3 December 2018.
A woman who consents to, assists in or performs a termination on herself, does not commit an offence.
A medical practitioner may perform a termination on a woman who is not more than 22 weeks pregnant.
If a woman is more than 22 weeks pregnant, a medical practitioner may perform a termination only if the medical practitioner has consulted with another medical practitioner who agrees that the termination should be performed (except in an emergency where it is considered that the termination is necessary to save the woman’s life or the life of another unborn child). The medical practitioner must consider factors including all relevant medical circumstances, the woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances, and professional standards and guidelines.
If a medical practitioner has a conscientious objection (a seriously held belief or moral concern), they must refer the woman to another practitioner.
An unqualified person who performs or assists in a termination commits a crime. An unqualified person is a person who is not a medical practitioner or, in relation to assisting in a termination, a person who is not a prescribed practitioner providing assistance in the practice of their health profession. If you are unsure whether someone is a medical practitioner, you should get legal advice.
You can get legal advice if you are worried about the legal status of an abortion.
Forcing or stopping someone from having an abortion
It’s a criminal offence to force a person to have an abortion without their consent.
Prohibited behaviour near termination services
Conduct which deters a person from entering, leaving, requesting or performing a termination (such as protesting), within the vicinity of a premises can amount to a criminal offence. It can also be an offence to record a person in, entering or leaving a termination services premises, and to distribute such a recording
You should get legal advice if you are concerned.
Abortion and legal capacity
Children and some adults don’t have the legal capacity to make decisions about their own health. A court or a tribunal may have to decide whether a child or an adult without legal capacity can make a decision to have an abortion.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) can make decisions about special health care matters for adults who don’t have the legal capacity to make decisions about their own health care. This includes abortions.
Only QCAT or the Supreme Court can give consent for these types of medical procedures (not an attorney or guardian).
QCAT has information about making a special health care matter application—get legal advice before applying.
Do I need legal advice?
You may need legal advice if you:
- have questions about whether an abortion is allowed under Queensland law
- have questions about whether you can stop someone from having an abortion
- have questions about who is a medical practitioner and who is an unqualified person
- need more information about special health care procedures for adults who lack capacity to make decisions
- need more information about special medical procedures for children
- have been charged with a criminal offence relating to abortion.
Get legal advice
We may give legal advice about:
- special health care procedures for adults who lack capacity, and
- special medical procedures for children.
You can also get legal advice from a private lawyer working in this area of law.
The Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.
Who else can help?
These organisations may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.
Children by Choice Association Incorporated gives unbiased information and counselling to women experiencing unplanned pregnancy.
Pregnancy Counselling Link provides counselling for women and their families with any concerns or grief issues relating to pregnancy, adoption or abortion.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal considers decisions about guardianship for adults with impaired decision making capacity for personal and health care matters.
Disclaimer: This content is for general purposes only and not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, please contact us or speak to a lawyer. View our full disclaimer.
Last updated 24 April 2019
If you have a general question for Legal Aid Queensland, please use the general question form or call 1300 65 11 88, Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.30pm.