Abortion bill leads to late night debate at NSW Parliament after heated clashes
6th August 2019
The first round of debates for a historic abortion bill has run late into the night after a day of clashes between protesters outside NSW Parliament.
- The abortion bill was debated until about 11.00pm and will continue on Wednesday
- Police cautioned some protesters on Tuesday morning, with both sides chanting slogans and holding signs
- The bill has sparked heated debate from medical and religious groups
Police cautioned some protesters, as large groups took over Macquarie Street on Tuesday morning following an overnight vigil from those opposed to abortion.
The ABC was told of physical altercations between the two sides however no official complaint has been reported to police.
Inside Parliament, politicians thrashed out their views on the issue.
Tanya Davies, the Liberal Member for Mulgoa, said the bill did not offer enough support to women.
“There must be inbuilt requirements for pre- and post-abortion counselling if we are truly to be caring and compassionate to the women,” she said.
“[The bill] simply sees it as a medical procedure akin to removing an ingrown toenail almost.”
Opposition Leader Jodi McKay said due to a lack of confidence in the medical industry, only 1 per cent of doctors in NSW were even qualified to perform terminations.
“So there is great inequity to access … and we should not accept that there are two systems of health care; one for the bush and one for the cities” she said.
“Women [in regional and rural areas] have to travel and pay for accommodation on top of only being able to access a private provider for a medical procedure.”
Later in the evening, the Member for Castle Hill, Ray Williams, broke down tonight as he told the chamber about his younger brother who suffered immensely before passing away at age two due to cerebral palsy.
“My mother insisted that if she had known the suffering my brother was to endure she would have had an abortion, thereby preventing his suffering,” he said.
However, Mr Williams said his mother also instilled in him the belief that sexually active people have a responsibility not to bring unwanted children into this world.
“This bill in my mind promotes a sense of apathy towards that responsibility … I oppose this bill.”
However, Greens MP Jenny Leong shared her own experience of getting an abortion while backpacking in Europe as a 20-year-old.
“It was a … choice made less traumatic and less stressful because I was able to access the healthcare that I needed, when I needed it, from people who knew what they were doing,” she said.
“I am outraged that it has taken this long and am offended there are so many men who think that they have the right to dictate what we do with our bodies.”
The bill, introduced by independent MP Alex Greenwich last week, would see the end the 119-year criminalisation of abortion in NSW.
It would also allow abortion after 22 weeks’ gestation, with the consent of two doctors.
No other state or territory in Australia has its abortion primary framework in criminal law.
The bill has created a wedge on the Liberal side, with about half a dozen Berejiklian Government MPs — including Police Minister David Elliott — opposing the proposed legislation.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard was the first to speak to the bill on the floor of Parliament.
He said he believed the bill reflected, and was in step with, the expectations and views of the majority of the NSW population.
“We have the opportunity to right a wrong enacted into law 119 years ago,” Mr Hazzard said.
“A law that no-one has had the courage since to change, a law that put women’s reproductive rights into the criminal code.
“A law that was enacted when this place had legislators that were all men.”
Right to Life NSW chief executive Rachel Carling said her anti-abortion protesters had been there since Monday afternoon.
“This is a very, very bad bill, very bad for NSW and we’re here to let MPs know we don’t accept the way they’re rushing through this without consultation,” Dr Carling said.