'Sorry it took so long': After 119 years, bill decriminalising abortion passes NSW Parliament

‘Sorry it took so long’: After 119 years, bill decriminalising abortion passes NSW Parliament

After weeks of protests and bitter in-party fighting, NSW Parliament has finally passed laws decriminalising abortion in the state.

The news has been welcomed by activists and community groups who have led numerous campaigns and protests outside Parliament in support of reform, and there was plenty of applause in Parliament this morning.

The change comes 119 years after abortion was criminalised in NSW, and following months of emotional speeches, story-telling and public fighting, including a short-lived move last week to try and oust Premier Gladys Berejiklian from the Liberal party leadership following her response. In the upper house, the abortion reform debate goes on record as being the third longest debate in its history, hitting almost 40 hours.

But particularly it comes thanks to the bill’s 15 co-sponsors, as well as a community of campaigners who — as Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore noted on Twitter — have worked tirelessly to make it happen.

The bill passed the upper house 26 votes to 14 on Wednesday night, and then the lower house Thursday morning.

“With the passage of this bill abortion will be decriminalised in NSW – I am sorry that has taken us so long,” Alex Greenwich, who introduced the bill on August 1, said on Wednesday night.

Fair Agenda’s Executive Director Renee Carr said the historic change is testament to the advocacy and leadership of pro-choice advocates who have championed more compassionate laws, many of them for decades.”

She gave thanks to the bill’s 15, cross-party co-sponsors who made it happen.

However, she also noted how bitter and challenging the debate became. “It’s disappointing that a minority of MPs tried to hold this reform hostage, and delayed these desperately needed improvements to our healthcare laws.

“This vote was about safe, legal and compassionate access to healthcare. A woman might need to end a pregnancy for any number of deeply complex and personal reasons. This legislation is an important step towards ensuring everyone can access the healthcare they need, when they need it and close to home.”

Our Bodies Our Choices, a community- led campaign to decriminalise abortion in NSW, was also relieved to see the laws go through.

Campaign Chair Claire Pullen said, “Like the majority of people in NSW, we are pleased to see our laws finally reflect the experiences and values of people in NSW”.

Their campaign Vice Chair Christine Donayre said it’d been a privilege to bring together the community on the issue. “To join regional and rural women, people with disability, people of colour, people of faith, our LGBTIQA+ family and people of all ages and all political parties from all over NSW, to show our MPs we are a pro-choice state.”

“By giving the people of NSW their voice on this issue we have seen our Parliamentarians at their best”.

Fair Agenda said South Australia must be next to enact more compassionate access to abortion care.

Currently, abortion care is only legal in SA if two doctors agree that a woman’s circumstance meet particular narrow conditions.

“Current laws in South Australia are out of touch and out of date, and they’re hurting women – particularly in rural and remote areas,” Renee Carr said

“Over the past decade Australians have benefited from important abortion care reforms made possible by pro-choice champions on both sides of the aisle. This healthcare issue should be above partisan politics, we hope South Australian MPs will support this desperately needed reform.”

“With the passage of this bill abortion will be decriminalised in NSW – I am sorry that has taken us so long,” Greenwich said on Wednesday night.

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