Abortion has been decriminalised in NSW after a bill, which had been the source of significant public and political debate in the past eight weeks, passed the Lower House this morning.
The bill that becomes law is more conservative than the original introduced by Independent Alex Greenwich on August 1 — and opponents of it have worked hard to make changes.
But three fundamental aspects have remained intact.
- Removing abortion from the Crimes Act
- Allowing an abortion up to 22 weeks gestation
- Allowing an abortion after 22 weeks gestation with the approval of two “specialist medical practitioners”
A “specialist medical practitioner” means an obstetrician or doctor with experience in obstetrics.
All terminations after 22 weeks will now have to be performed in a public hospital.
It will also now be a crime punishable by up to two years jail to coerce a person to either prevent or force them to have an abortion.
The NSW bill was modelled off the Queensland bill which passed last year and is similar to the Victorian legislation, although in that state abortions are allowed up to 24 weeks.
Deep divisions in the Liberal Party have been revealed since Independent MP Alex Greenwich announced the introduction of the bill in July.
Throughout the past few months of debate far-right and religious groups attacked the Government for trying to “rush” the bill through without enough public consultation.
Federal Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, and former prime minister Tony Abbott, both spoke out in opposition, with Mr Joyce describing it as the “slavery debate of our time”.
But NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro said he was proud to be part of a Government that had decriminalised abortion.
“What we’ve achieved last night is historic for the state, decriminalising abortion, taking it out of criminal act and putting it in the health act where it should be, and not treating women like criminals,” he said.
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher described it as a “dark day” for the state.
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