After an intense eight weeks of parliamentary debate and public protests, Australia’s most populous state New South Wales has passed an abortion bill that will remove abortion from the state’s criminal laws, “decriminalizing” a procedure that was first made lawful in 1971.
The Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 passed its final hurdle on Sept. 26 in the lower house following a marathon debate in the upper house on Sept. 25 where it had nearly 40 hours of discussion.
Liberal and Labor MPs were allowed a conscience vote on the bill.
The lengthy debates spurred by members of parliament (MPs) concerned about the lack of safeguards to protect the life of the unborn baby made the bill the third longest debate in the state’s house of review.
A similar abortion bill, introduced by NSW Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, was debated but failed in 2017 after more than 56,000 people signed a petition against it.
To record their remaining opposition to the bill, 10 members of the Upper House—Liberal’s Matthew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato; Labor’s Courtney Houssos, Greg Donnelly, and Shaoquett Moselmane; One Nation’s Mark Latham and Rod Roberts; Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Robert Borsak and Mark Banasiak, and Christian Democrat Fred Nile—put their names to a protest which they delivered to the governor in the hopes of blocking the bill. But ultimately, their last ditch effort failed.
The bill, presented to parliament in August by progressive independent MP Alex Greenwich, will now allow terminations up to 22 weeks, or five and a half months, and up to birth if two doctors agree.
An amendment passed in the upper house recognized doctors performing abortions after 22 weeks could seek advice from a multi-disciplinary team, or hospital advisory committee.
The legislation was opposed by women who have had bad experiences with abortions; anti-abortion activists; religious groups; and several MPs who raised concerns about the rights of the unborn child, late-term abortions, sex-selective abortions, selling of aborted baby parts, conscientious objections by doctors, and the bill bypassing proper processes that would have allowed time for community consultations.
Bill co-sponsor Labor MP Penny Sharpe said it was “a massive step forward for women in NSW.”
Fun fact: the last time a non-government bill that originated in the Lower House passed, was in 2010 when my predecessor @CloverMoore introduced same-sex adoption, like the abortion decriminalisation Bill it was co-sponsored and introduced into the Upper House by @PennySharpemlc pic.twitter.com/vZCtBWBYL6
— Alex Greenwich MP (@AlexGreenwich) September 26, 2019
Liberal MP Tanya Davies, a vocal opponent of the bill, said she was “of very mixed emotions.” Davies, along with two other Liberal Party members, had threatened to call a leadership challenge over the bill, citing the “flawed process” with which the “extreme” bill had been rushed through Parliament.
Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher described the vote as “a very dark day for NSW.”
“The new abortion law is a defeat for humanity,” he said in a statement.
“Since the abolition of capital punishment in New South Wales in 1955, this is the only deliberate killing ever legalized in our state.”
The bill come days after U.S. President Donald Trump said in his address to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly that U.N.-backed projects were working to “assert a global right to taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, right up until the moment of delivery.”
“Global bureaucrats have absolutely no business attacking the sovereignty of nations that wish to protect innocent life,” Trump said, without further details.
“Like many nations here today, we in America believe that every child—born and unborn—is a sacred gift from God.”
He said that Americans will “never tire of defending innocent life.”
Abortions were, many just recently, “decriminalized” in Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and are legal for some medical reasons in South Australia.
With reporting by AAP.