Anti-choice MPs pull out all stops to restrict access

September 21, 2019
A pro-choice action outside NSW parliament on August 20. Photo: Zebedee Parkes

Anti-choice state MPs are seeking to add as many caveats as possible to a bill that seeks to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales and which has the support of medical, legal and feminist organisations.

Even though the MPs oppose the bill, they put up nearly 40 amendments in the NSW Legislative Council last week. The debate in the upper house is set to continue on October 1.

The longest speeches in the marathon debate came from MPs who feign concern but want the bill to fail.

They include MLCs such as Labor’s Greg Donnelly, a former official with ongoing ties to the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association; Pauline Hanson’s One Nation’s Mark Latham; and ultra-conservative Christian Democratic Party leader Fred Nile.

Playing straight from the US pro-life rulebook, Nile’s amendment regarding “care of child born alive after termination” which would apply “if a termination results in a child being born alive” was defeated.

However, a watered-down version of this amendment moved by National Party deputy leader Niall Blair was passed.

Latham’s amendment to allow doctors with a conscientious objection to not refer on patients was defeated.

An amendment by Labor’s Courtney Houssos to mandate the offer of counselling prior to all abortions was defeated but another mandating “necessary information” on counselling for abortions more than 22 weeks into a pregnancy was passed.

Liberal MLC Damien Tudehope’s amendment on sex selective abortion — which was debated for four hours — was defeated, but a declaration was passed that parliament opposes sex selective abortion and that a review must provide guidelines for its prevention.

Attempts to delay the bill coming into effect and to change its gender-neutral wording were defeated, as were efforts to restrict abortions after 22 weeks.

An amendment mandating a four-person advisory panel for abortions post 22 weeks was also defeated.

Further amendments on reporting statistical data, data collection, the prohibition of the sale of foetal tissue, a review of the act, criminal offences and coercion are still to be debated.

After that, the bill will return to the Legislative Assembly, where MLAs will vote on whether they agree or disagree with the amendments.

Despite overwhelming public support to treat abortion as a health procedure, the fight being put up shows how the powerful, but unrepresentative anti-choice lobby, can weaken laws for everyone.

They have to be called out and stopped.

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