The Independent Sydney MP behind the bill to finally decriminalise abortion in NSW has apologised to women for taking “so long” to enact change.
Alex Greenwich presented the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 to the lower house yesterday, with an emphatic call to arms:
“Let’s not delay any more. Now is the time for the parliament to come together to ensure women and their doctors are appropriately protected under the law,” he said.
The latest bill has 15 co-sponsors from varying parties and enables pregnant women in NSW to seek abortion up to 22 weeks gestation– later if two doctors “consider that, in all the circumstances, the termination should be performed”.
The law criminalising abortion was instated in 1900 at a time when women didn’t even have the vote let alone the capacity to influence the state’s legislation.
“Women have fought long and hard for this reform, over many, many decades,” Greenwich said.
Critically, the bill is also supported by NSW’s Premier Gladys Berejiklian who said a “strength of feeling” had swept across political divides to bring about collective resolve on this issue.
Two years ago, now Federal Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi also lobbied for abortion reform but had her bill denied. In an op-ed for The Guardian this morning, she said:
“I’m proud to see this renewed push for decriminalising abortion. I hope with all my heart that the people of NSW finally have their reproductive rights. I have full confidence that the pro-choice campaign and alliances we have built will make sure that happens.”
She also noted the additional burdens faced by women in regional Australia, those from migrant and Indigenous backgrounds and with low social capital, imploring the NSW government to swiftly address issues of “limited abortion access” for these more vulnerable women.
But not everyone is happy about the new bill and the likelihood of its passing. Anti-abortion campaigners have infiltrated Macquarie Street outside NSW Parliament with signs declaring “pregnant women need support not abortion” and “we love life on both sides of the womb”.
On top of this, some conservative politicians have also sought to share their two cents on the matter.
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce sensationally invoked the name of his youngest son to make a point about the reform this week, attacking NSW politicians sponsoring the legislation.
“In the NSW Parliament they are debating whether Tom [his youngest son with partner, Vikki Campion] had no classification of human rights,” Joyce said as Labor MPs heckled him from across the chamber.
“To say he didn’t have the rights of other human life is to say he must be subhuman.”
Joyce further added that “the hour of birth is an arbitrary point in modern medicine”, and that his son had an “indivisible right” to live.
“Tom had rights, even though he was not conscious of them. They should not be removed by a parliament,” he said.
Melanie Fernandez, a Pro-Choice NSW spokesperson, said she found Joyce’s comments “very disappointing”.
“Barnaby Joyce as a Federal Member is not going to be voting on this bill,” she said.
“We know Mr Joyce has a history of intervening … but this is a matter for NSW Parliament and for the women of NSW.”
And it seems they’ve made up their minds.