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Issue #1881      August 14, 2019

Women’s right to choose!

Bill passes in NSW Lower House

Introduced by MP Alex Greenwich on August 1, the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019, otherwise known as the Abortion Bill, was hotly contested in the NSW Parliament last Tuesday. The debate started at midday and carried on until almost midnight. The bill, which seeks to decriminalise abortion, would grant abortions up to 22 weeks’ gestation performed by a registered doctor. Beyond 22 weeks abortions would require the consent of two doctors.

Photo: Franc Stregone

Speaking in support of the bill, Convenor of the University of Sydney’s Women’s Collective, Jazzlyn Breen, said “This bill is long, long overdue because even people in major cities across NSW people have trouble accessing proper healthcare. And this is just the major cities; in rural towns, it’s so much worse. There’s nowhere to get an abortion, there are no doctors that can give you an option that is within 100 kilometres of your town, and this is a bill that is going to help those people access the healthcare they need.”

Health and Medical Research Minister Brad Hazzard called on MPs to “right a wrong enacted into law 119 years ago [...] when this place had legislators who were all men.” Hazzard said that the 22-week threshold “allowed time for the diagnosis of foetal abnormalities,” and was supported by NSW Australian Medical Association. Hazzard also warned MPs over amendments watering down the bill.

But that didn’t stop them from being pushed by Attorney General Mark Speakman, Planning Minister Rob Stokes and MP Tanya Davies.

Speakman and Stokes’ amendment required late-term abortions would require the approval of a hospital advisory committee, made up of at least four members, instead of a second medical practitioner.

Davies’ amendment wanted to reduce the threshold for restrictions on late-term abortions from 22 to 20 weeks.

These amendments were short-lived. By Thursday, Speakman pulled his amendment after the NSW Australian Medical Association had slammed it the day before criticising it as “the most concerning amendment” which would only increase a “significant risk of unnecessary delay and only add to their suffering, particularly women in regional and rural areas.”

Davies’ amendment was voted down 71 to 19.

Despite the attempts to weaken the bill, it passed the lower house 59 to 31. The bill is now referred to the Parliament’s social issues committee before it heads to the upper house where it is expected to pass.

Next article – Editorial – Whence the threat to peace?

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