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NSW State Parliament votes to keep abortion in the Crimes Act

The bill was rejected 25 votes to 14

Image: Justine Landis-Hanley Image: Justine Landis-Hanley

NSW State Parliament has voted to keep abortion in the NSW Crimes Act 1900 today following a conscience vote.

The Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016, proposed by Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi, was defeated with 14 votes for, 25 against.

The bill also sought to establish 150 metre safe access zones around abortion clinics, and require that doctors who object to abortion refer their patients onto another doctor.

This keeps NSW legislation out of step with most other Australian states, with NSW and Queensland being the only states where abortion is criminalised.

The bill has been carefully crafted over a period of months and in consultation with medical and legal professionals, women’s groups and the community,” Faruqi told Honi.

“We looked at various models that are in place not just in Australia but overseas as well, and wanted to draft something that gives complete bodily autonomy and decision-making power to the person accessing abortion services.

Today was the first time abortion has been debated in state parliament in over 100 years. 

USyd Student Representative Council’s Wom*n’s Collective have long campaigned in favour of reform.

“This is not good enough,” said Wom*n’s Officer Imogen Grant. “We mustn’t ever be complacent about gender-based discrimination in our legal system. The ambiguity in the law means that many doctors do not perform the procedure due to risk of prosecution. Furthermore, the criminalisation of abortion bolsters anti-choice protesters who intimidate patients and picket clinics. It also legitimises the stigma in society surrounding abortion access.

“Abortion restrictions, lack of access, and clinic protesters are among the prime reasons that pregnant people don’t access health services. This means it is crucial to not just defend abortion rights, but also expand those rights to allow for exclusion zones and for pregnancies to be safely terminated for free in public hospitals.”

Abortion is a legal grey area in NSW. Its availability hinges on a 1971 court decision that holds abortion lawful based on a doctor’s judgment, not on a pregnant woman’s, and access has therefore been a key issue.

At a rally organised by WoCo earlier this year, Faruqi quoted a Queensland counsellor who said: “If you have found it easy to access an abortion you are lucky, probably white, well-off and live in a city”.

“Many GPs in NSW don’t actually perform pregnancy termination,” Faruqi said. “It is privatised, it’s expensive, and access is really difficult, especially for regional and rural women.”

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