Bill legalising abortions to be introduced to NSW Parliament this week
New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard has said it is “time for change” when it comes to abortion law, ahead of the introduction of a new bill which would see pregnancy terminations regulated as a medical procedure around the state.
Currently, abortions in NSW are dealt with under the Crimes Act 1900.
The Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019 — a private member’s bill — will be introduced to the NSW Parliament this week by the independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich.
The bill states that a woman does not commit an offence if she procures a termination within the framework provided in the legislation and amend the offences listed under the act.
It would allow for terminations on request for women up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
After this time, terminations would be lawful if two doctors believe it should be performed in light of future physical, social and psychological circumstances.
The bill would also create a new criminal offence under the Crimes Act for those who assist in terminations who are not authorised to do so, attracting a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.
“The bill ensures women in NSW have access to safe and lawful terminations without the threat of criminal convictions and provides doctors with the legal clarity they have long sought,” Mr Greenwich said in a statement on Sunday.
Based on laws in Queensland and Victoria, the bill also has the support of Australian Medical Association NSW.
It was developed by a cross-party working group including the National’s Trevor Khan and Labor’s Penny Sharpe and Jo Haylen, with the oversight of Mr Hazzard.
Women should have the “absolute clarity of black and white legislation” around the issue as they do in some other states and territories, Mr Hazzard told reporters in Sydney.
“I believe the time has come for us to be respectful in the debate but also to recognise that it’s time for change,” he said.
While there will be “people who have very strong views” in the Parliament, Mr Hazzard says he’s sure these will be expressed “carefully and respectfully.”
He believes there will be a conscience vote on the bill and hopes it receives the approval of Parliament.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) said NSW was the last state in Australia to decriminalise abortion, placing women and doctors under “a different and stigmatised legal arrangement to other states.”
The bill “reflects the common law entitlements that currently exist, while removing the stigma and legal uncertainty associated with abortion being included in the Crimes Act,” AMA NSW said in a statement.
The NSW Pro-Choice Alliance said it had been a “long road”.
“Most significantly for women with unintended pregnancies but also for the health, legal, political and women’s services who have fought long and hard to see this law overturned in recent decades,” the organisations chair Wendy McCarthy said in a statement.
The Greens MP Jenny Leong congratulated those who had pushed for the reform.
“It’s past time for women to have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. It’s time for abortion law reform,” Ms Leong said in a statement.
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