Statement on intersex and abortion law reform

This statement follows press reports in the Daily Telegraph, suggesting that NSW Finance Minister Damien Tudehope will introduce a proposed amendment to a bill decriminalising abortion in the NSW Legislative Council to prohibit terminations on grounds of sex or intersex traits.

IHRA has a longstanding position on the use of IVF technologies and terminations. We call for an end to the use of these technologies to eliminate the possibility of intersex lives, as we have natural biological variations that contribute to the diversity of human existence. At the same time, we support women’s right to choose and support the decriminalisation of abortion. In our view these are compatible in the same way that we can support women’s right to choose and oppose sex selection. In our view, legislation to decriminalise abortion is not the right place to express opposition to sex selection. We further recognise that not all people seeking abortions are women.

We note that press reports on the proposed amendment presuppose that intersex is a sex category, which is not the case so far in NSW law. This is likely to have difficult unforeseen consequences, especially for intersex women and intersex men. Intersex people are diverse and should not be forced into a single sex category. This is a significant change to State law, not subject to prior consultation. We fear this may indicate that the proposal is primarily intended as a political wedge.

We note that doctors, even in Australian jurisdictions with a third category, assign infants with intersex variations to female or male categories. This is likely due to the risk of stigmatisation of children and their families and because third legal categories do not actually change medical practices, which we know still focus on harmful surgical interventions to make intersex bodies more typically female or male. We also note that most intersex people, according to available research, identify with assigned sex while others do not, and our diverse individual experiences must be respected.

We have some more information on intersex and eugenics here:

And on intersex diversity of legal classifications and identities:

This statement is attributable to Morgan Carpenter, co-executive director.