Historic abortion bill to be introduced into NSW Parliament

29th July 2019

Source: Sydney Morning Herald | By: Alexandra Smith | Posted: July 29, 2019

Fifteen MPs from across the political divide are co-sponsoring a bill to decriminalise abortion in NSW, in a historic move that has never been done in the state's lower house.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and several ministers have confirmed they will support the bill, which will be the first co-sponsored legislation to be introduced into the Legislative Assembly.

It also has more co-sponsors than any piece of legislation in the history of the NSW Parliament,  including two ministers as well as Labor, Nationals, Greens and Animal Justice MPs.

The proposed legislation would excise abortion from the state’s 119-year-old criminal code and create a standalone healthcare act to regulate the procedure.

The bill, which could be introduced to Parliament as early as Tuesday, allows abortion on request for women up to 22 weeks' gestation performed by a registered doctor.

Women beyond 22 weeks would need the consent of two doctors.

NSW is the only state in Australia that has not decriminalised abortion.

The bill was drafted by a working group of MPs including the Nationals' Trevor Khan, Labor's Penny Sharpe and independent Alex Greenwich, who will introduce the bill.

It has the backing of Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who is one of the bill's co-sponsors.

Mr Greenwich said he was hopeful he could introduce the bill on Tuesday.

"A lot of members have come to me and said they would like this debated and dealt with as quickly as possible," Mr Greenwich said.

Last year, Mr Khan and Ms Sharpe co-sponsored a bill in the upper house that established 150-metre "safe access zones" around abortion clinics.

Ms Berejiklian said on Monday, "If the legislation contains what I think it does, I'll be supporting it."

Coalition MPs will be given a conscience vote.

"NSW is the last state to decriminalise abortion and all members of the Liberals and Nationals will be given a conscience vote on this issue," Ms Berejiklian said.

"I'd encourage all members of the Parliament to look at the legislation, as I will be doing, to make sure they're comfortable with it and decide either way how they feel about it."

One of the sponsors, Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock,  said it was an important reform "which corrects a significant error in our laws and puts choice into the hands of women across NSW".

Several supporters of the bill from the government and Labor believe there is sufficient support to pass the lower house this week, although there will be several opponents from both sides.

Another sponsor, Labor's Jo Haylen said there was a "real sense of support in the community to see this arcane piece of legislation finally changed".

But Liberal Riverstone MP Kevin Conolly said he was "dismayed by the bill".

"It is especially disheartening that members of the government have been involved in this process without the endorsement of the party room," Mr Conolly said.

A statement from the working party said: "Members who represent various political parties and communities across NSW have come together to ensure women in NSW can get access to safe and legal abortions, and that doctors have the legal certainty they have long asked for.

"To mark the significance of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019, this bill will be the first co-sponsored legislation ever introduced into the NSW Legislative Assembly, and has more co-sponsors than any other piece of legislation in the history of the NSW Parliament."

The co-sponsors are:

1. Shelley Hancock (Liberal), Minister for Local Government.
2. Trish Doyle (Labor), opposition spokeswoman on women.
3. Brad Hazzard MP (Liberal), Health Minister.
4. Ryan Park (Labor), opposition spokesman on health.
5. Jenny Leong MP (Greens), Greens spokeswoman on women's rights.
6. Leslie Williams (Nationals), Deputy Speaker.
7. Penny Sharpe (Labor), opposition spokeswoman on family and community services.
8. Alex Greenwich (independent).
9. Trevor Khan (Nationals), Deputy President of Legislative Council.
10. Abigail Boyd (Greens), Greens spokeswoman for women’s equity.
11. Jo Haylen (Labor), opposition spokeswoman on active transport.
12. Jenny Aitchison (Labor ), opposition spokeswoman on primary industries.
13. Felicity Wilson (Liberal).
14. Greg Piper (independent).
15. Emma Hurst (Animal Justice Party)

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