When More is Less: Emergency Powers, COVID-19 and Abortion in South Australia, 2020


In March 2020, when emergency powers legislation was invoked in South Australia to manage COVID-19, the South Australian Abortion Action Coalition (saaac) had been campaigning to decriminalise abortion since 2015. The group quickly realised that COVID-19 restrictions would amplify pre-existing difficulties for abortion providers and their patients and focused its efforts on persuading members of the government and the Chief Public Health Officer to use emergency powers to suspend aspects of abortion law to enable better and safer access to abortion services, specifically medical abortion via telehealth. This article offers an account of saaac’s 2020 campaign and asks why the needs of abortion patients and their healthcare providers were sidelined at the height of the COVID-19 lockdown in SA in early 2020.

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Published: 2022-12-01
Pages:87 to 98
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How to Cite
Baird, B., Flowers, P., Kevin, C. and Roach Anleu, S. (2022) “When More is Less: Emergency Powers, COVID-19 and Abortion in South Australia, 2020”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 11(4), pp. 87-98. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.2236.

Author Biographies

Associate Professor Barbara Baird is an interdisciplinary scholar in Women’s and Gender Studies at Flinders University. She publishes in the fields of feminist and queer histories and is a chief investigator on the project “Gender and sexual politics: Changing citizenship in Australia since 1969.” Barbara is one of Australia’s leading abortion scholars and is currently writing a monograph on the history of abortion provision for Melbourne University Press.

Dr Prudence Flowers is Senior Lecturer in US History at Flinders University. She publishes on activist movements in the US and the politics of gender, sexuality and the body. Prudence is the author of The Right-to-Life Movement, the Reagan administration and the Politics of Abortion (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019) and is currently finalising an internationally comparative project exploring provision and access to late termination of pregnancy.

Associate Professor Catherine Kevin is a historian at Flinders University. She is the lead chief investigator on the project “A History of Domestic Violence in Australia 1850-2020”. Catherine publishes on the histories of maternal and reproductive politics and Indigenous-settler relations in Australia. She is the author of Dispossession and the Making of ‘Jedda’: Hollywood in Ngunnawal Country (Anthem, 2020).

Sharyn Roach Anleu is Matthew Flinders Distinguished Professor at Flinders University, a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and a former President of The Australian Sociological Association. Her most recent books are Judging and Emotion: A Socio-legal Analysis, with Kathy Mack (2021) and Judges, Judging and Humour, co-edited with Jessica Milner Davis (2019).