Australian state legalizes abortion after parliamentary vote

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Queensland state has legalized abortion after lawmakers were allowed a free vote late on Wednesday, making it the fifth Australian state to do so.

Restrictions on abortion vary by jurisdiction in Australia and though it had been illegal in Queensland under a 19th century statute, women had circumvented that using 1960s and 1970s common law rulings, which permit abortion on social and economic grounds. It was also permitted on medical grounds.

Under the new law, women can terminate pregnancies on request at up to 22 weeks gestation. The law passed Queensland’s one-house parliament by 50 votes to 41.

“This is an historic day for Queensland,” the Australian Broadcasting Corporation quoted the state’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, as saying.

“We now join other jurisdictions, both in Australia and around the world, in recognizing termination as a health matter.”

Abortion is a raging political battle in a number of countries, including the United States, where many conservatives hope the Supreme Court will eventually overturn a landmark 1973 ruling known as Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Robert Birsel

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