Bracket creep in Australian abortion indications: when did rubella arrive?

Kate Gleeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article highlights a common misconception about abortion law that is apparent from reading Harriton v Stephens (2006) 226 CLR 52; namely, that fetal abnormality forms a prima facie case for lawful abortion across Australia. This fallacy stems from the legacy of British law drafted in the aftermath of the thalidomide crisis of the early 1960s, and continues to shape beliefs about Australian abortion law in society and within the judiciary. The article notes the fundamental contradictions between British-style law that provides for abortion on the ground of fetal abnormality and New South Wales case law that provides for lawful abortion in regard to the health and wellbeing of the woman. The author concludes that it is misguided and erroneous to configure abortion law in terms of the fetus inconsistent with the tradition of abortion law, and New South Wales authority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-433
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Law and Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007


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