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Reproductive Health and Rights in the Northern Territory : reforming the Medical Services Act 1974

Gerry, Felicity, Belton, Suzanne and Yogaratnam, Jeswynn (2015). Reproductive Health and Rights in the Northern Territory : reforming the Medical Services Act 1974<br />. Darwin, NT (published online): Charles Darwin University, Menzies School of Health Research.

Document type: Research Report
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School, Research Institute or Centre Menzies School of Health Research
Author Gerry, Felicity
Belton, Suzanne
Yogaratnam, Jeswynn
Title of Report Reproductive Health and Rights in the Northern Territory : reforming the Medical Services Act 1974
Publication Date 2015-12
Publisher Charles Darwin University, Menzies School of Health Research
Place of Publication Darwin, NT (published online)
Total Pages 32
Field of Research 1114 - Paediatrics and Reproductive Medicine
180110 - Criminal Law and Procedure
1117 - Public Health and Health Services
Abstract 1. This discussion paper was prepared for the purposes of a panel event on the 24th of
November 2014. It deals with Australia’s international obligations in relation to
reproductive health and the current state of the law in relation to abortion in the Northern
Territory (NT) of Australia which is largely set out in the Medical Services Act 1974
(MSA) and the NT Criminal Code (NTCC). We have provided some data, where
available, although current and accurate data is problematic. We have found that some
legislation on reproductive health across Australia has been reformed although the result
is by no means uniform.

2. Our preliminary conclusion is that the current state of the law in relation to reproductive
health in the NT puts Australia in breach of its international law obligations to provide
women and girls with the right to reproductive health and the highest standards of
medical care. Medical professionals, women and girls in the NT are criminalised. Women
and girls in the NT are prevented from being able to determine freely and responsibly the
number and spacing of their children and are unnecessarily exposed to health risks with
consequent physical and emotional damage, as well as experiencing a lack of privacy.
This constitutes a serious breach of the state’s duty of care that, in our preliminary view,
will require a report to the next CEDAW Committee.

3. It is also our preliminary view that immediate remedial action must be taken to enable
freedom of choice for women and girls and the provision of flexible and suitable medical
or surgical abortion services in the Northern Territory and to enable Australia to move
towards better compliance with international obligations in the context of reproductive
health.

4. To this end, we make recommendations for urgent implementation which were informed
through discussion with interested parties to form a picture as to what is or may be
achieved by way of both legal reform and practical measures.
Keyword termination of pregnancy
legal abortion
human rights
Medical Services Act
reproductive health care
women’s rights
ORCID 0000-0003-0431-9492


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