NSW Lower House passes abortion bill

NSW Lower House passes abortion bill

A historic bill to decriminalise abortion has passed the New South Wales Lower House after it was introduced two weeks ago.

Members of Parliament were granted a conscience vote on the bill, which aims to remove abortion from the Crimes Act 1900 and define it as a medical procedure in its own legislation.

The bill was passed just before 11:00pm on Thursday with 59 in favour and 31 against.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian voted for the bill after facing criticism for not being more vocal in her support.

But the bill’s passing is not the end of the matter as the proposed legislation will still need to pass the state’s Upper House.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who brought the bill, along with 15 co-sponsors, told ABC Radio the result had been “a long time coming.”

“So many have been working so hard and so long to get us to this point,” he said.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard was the first to speak on the proposed legislation when the debate commenced on Tuesday.

“We… have the opportunity to right a wrong enacted into law 119 years ago,” he said.

“A law that no-one has had the courage since to change. A law that put women’s reproductive rights into the criminal code. A law that was enacted when this place had legislators that were all men.”

The bill has been the subject of debate in the Lower House for the past two days, as MPs gave their reasons as to why felt they could, or could not, vote for the proposed legislation.

Several MPs raised concerns over late-term abortions and a provision relating to conscientious objection by medical practitioners, as well as the amount of time given to consult on the bill.

It was amended after extensive debate which saw safeguards around informed consent and provisions on conscientious objection for doctors strengthened.

The changes would also ensure specialists perform late-term abortions and those procedures could only be done in approved public facilities.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who spoke “on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves”, said supporters of the bill were on the wrong side of history.

The bill is fiercely opposed by anti-abortion and religious groups.

However, Mr Hazzard tweeted the debate in Parliament yesterday was the “best 11.5 hours debating I’ve had in 28 yrs in Parliament.”

Deputy Labor leader Yasmin Catley also spoke in support.

“We are the last remaining state to have these outdated and archaic laws hanging over the heads of women and medical practitioners trying to deliver health care to these women,” she said.

Not all MPs supported the bill, with some raising concerns about the 22-week threshold, beyond which a woman can consult two doctors if seeking a termination.

If the bill is passed by the Upper House, it will bring NSW abortion laws into line with other states and territories in Australia.

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