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The laws against abortion in NSW have stood for 119 years. A handful of MPs believe that this change is being rushed, and have succeeded in delaying the debate for another week.
NSW Anti-abortion law has stood since 1900. It that state, it remains a crime; and it remains the only state that continues seeing that way.
However, change is afoot, as a bill introduced to the NSW parliament is set to finally tear down the grand old man of antiquated legislation.
Today, a cabal of conservative politicians have managed to delay the debate a week, with an inside source stating that they are concerned about the pace of change. “This really is a complex issue and I do understand people not wanting it rushed through because that could undermine the bill,” the source said.
Police Minister David Elliott, Riverstone MP Kevin Conolly and Mulgoa MP Tanya Davies are believed to be those who emboldened the delay.
Despite this, Alex Greenwich, the MP who tabled the bill, has stated that he has a “firm commitment” from Premier Gladys Berejiklian that it would “be dealt with” next week.
The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill looks to enshrine the right to safe access to abortion services and decriminalise (and destigmatise) it in the eyes of the public.
Despite the fact that the bill turned 119 this year, it remains an oft-evoked piece of legislation.
Just a pair of years ago, a NSW woman was convicted of attempting to terminate her own pregnancy.
As Sonia Hickey noted, “Blacktown Local Court heard that the woman’s boyfriend urged her to undergo an abortion, but she was turned away from several clinics due to her gestation period being more than 20 weeks. In desperation, she procured abortion pills over the internet.
Her baby survived, and her criminal defence lawyers argued – albeit erroneously – that she should therefore not guilty. However, the law is clear on the subject and the magistrate found the woman had a “clear intent to procure a miscarriage”, adding it was his job to apply section 82 of the Crimes Act.”
The law also specifically states that a doctor can only terminate a pregnancy if “the operation was necessary to preserve the woman involved from serious danger to her life or physical or mental health which the continuance of pregnancy could entail”. This is based on a 1971 court ruling.
The current law forbid the “unlawful” use drugs or use instruments “with intent in any such case to procure her miscarriage”. The legislation also explicitly states that a doctor can only terminate a pregnancy if “the operation was necessary to preserve the woman involved from serious danger to her life or physical or mental health which the continuance of pregnancy could entail”. It’s worth mentioning that this qualifier was based on a court case from 1971.
As Hickey also illustrated, “…the proposed new bill, however, will allow access to pregnancy termination in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy. The NSW laws are based on Queensland laws introduced last year, and will also include a ‘conscientious objection’ clause for doctors, who would be obliged to refer patients to other medical practitioners.
This means that Doctors are not expected or required to provide or directly participate in treatments to which they conscientiously object; however, they cannot allow their objection to impede or deny access to legally available treatments. A similar provision was made in Victoria’s assisted dying laws when they were introduced in 2017.”
This week’s push, however, does not represent the first challenge, as 2016 saw The Greens’ Mehreen Faruqi introduce the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016. 2016 was a hell of a drug, as neither then-Premier Mike Baird or his opposite, Luke Foley stood for abortion, with the latter frankly stating that he would not change the law, should he win the election. The public at the time supported the decriminalisation of abortion, with 73% of one poll coveting precisely that.
However, there has been teensy tiny steps toward change, as 2018 saw the NSW government institute 150-metre ‘safe access zones’ around abortion clinics, making it an offence to harass anyone entering or exiting an abortion clinic. But, considering that they’ve long-stalled the more important issue (and continue to do the same with this dealy), should remain the salient point.