NSW is the only Australian state yet to decriminalise abortion and the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights say this has very real consequences for people who need to access safe and compassionate reproductive health services.
Last Thursday evening, after three days of wrangling, an historic bill to decriminalise abortions was passed in the NSW lower house (Legislative Assembly). Following the vote the Speaker announced – ‘The result of the division is with 59 “ayes” and 31 “nos”, I declare the motion passed’.
The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 was originally being championed by independent MP Alex Greenwich and due to the contentious nature of the vote was allowed to proceed as a conscience vote. The bill was supported by the Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard, however, it was opposed by other senior Liberals including the treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
Local Greens MP Tamara Smith said that after many amendments put forward by the evangelical right of the Liberal Party, and over 36 hours of debate, the legislation was finally passed in the Legislative Assembly (lower house) late on Thursday night.
‘Once it is passed in the upper house abortion will no longer be a crime in NSW and it will be located legally within a health framework,’ said Ms Smith.
‘After over 50 years of active lobbying and with NSW the last state in Australia to decriminalise abortion, to say this is historic is an understatement.’
Ms Smith says that there were times during the debate that she felt genuinely shocked by the way members dehumanised women in their anti-abortion arguments.
‘They suggested that women are somehow separate from their bodies and mere vessels when it comes to being pregnant.’
Ms Smith says safe and legal reproductive rights are about being respected as a human being.
‘To regard women as separate from their bodies and deny them bodily autonomy is to deny us our humanity,’ she said.
The announcement was received with cheers in the lower house.
The upper will consider the bill this week after further debate with the possibility of a vote soon after.