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Abortion bill amendments drafted

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Fuelled by coffee and take away pizza young people sang and chanted through a 36-hour pro-life vigil from 5-7 August. PHOTO: Patrick J Lee

A pro-life rally continued for a second night outside NSW Parliament house on 6 August as senior ministers drafted amendments to the extreme bill to decriminalise abortion in the state.

NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman and Planning Minister Rob Stokes were the first to draft amendments which would change the requirements for abortions after 22 weeks.

Debate on the bill in the lower house introduced by independent MP Alex Greenwich on 1 August opened on 5 August. By the end of the day the upper house voted to hold a brief inquiry into the bill next week.

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The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 allows abortion on request for women up to 22 weeks’ gestation and with the sign-off of two doctors after 22 weeks.

Students belonging to the UTS Catholic Society with newly-ordained Fr William Chow protest the abortion bill. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

It’s been reported that the amendments, which are yet to be tabled, propose that after 22 weeks an abortion would need to be performed in a public hospital or in a private hospital approved by the Health Minister, and have the approval of a hospital advisory committee, rather than a second doctor. In addition it would need to be done by an obstetrician or a doctor with “appropriate additional expertise” rather than any medical practitioner, except in cases of emergency.

Up to 50 MPs wish to speak in relation to the bill before it is put to vote. Those who do not support the bill include Liberal member for Lane Cove Anthony Roberts who said the lack of time for consultation with the community or other stakeholders on the matter represented a “disgraceful breach of process and procedure” and “a complete lack of respect by those moving this bill towards the people of New South Wales”.

“There should be no debate on the sanctity of human life but here we are,” he said. “Abortion is in direct defiance of the commonly accepted idea of the sanctity of human life.

CEO of NSW Right to Life Rachel Carling addresses a rally on 1 August outside NSW Parliament House to oppose the abortion bill. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

“No civilised society permits one human to intentionally harm or take the life of another human without consequence and abortion is no different.

“Evidence has shown that abortion can result in medical complications later in life and frequently causes intense psychological pain and stress.”

Labour leader Jodi McKay said she supported the bill as “long overdue” reform that should form part of a strategy which would include greater access to contraception.

Liberal member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies, who opposes the bill, said she was shocked and “utterly dismayed” that “doctors, mental health professionals and other experts who hold differing views to what is contained in the bill as well as the evidence from abortion bills in other States have been excluded from the process of consultation and debate”.

“I am utterly dismayed that the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government, of which I am a member, is denying my constituents time to understand a radical abortion bill and, therefore, participate in a crucial debate.”

Outside, as the night got late, the young protesters swapped  their pro-life chants for nursery rhymes after a social message alerting them to a mother living in a nearby apartment who was attempting to get her children to sleep.

Religious leaders unite

Melkite Catholic Bishop Robert Rabbat. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

Meanwhile, Christian leaders continue to unite in opposition to the bill with the Melkite Catholic community set to hold a prayer service led by their Bishop Robert Rabbat in St Mary’s Cathedral tonight from 7pm followed by a peaceful protest at the front of Parliament House.

Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies, Bishop Daniel of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Archbishop Makarios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in Australia, and others have also voiced staunch opposition on behalf of their faith communities.

Catholic leaders of NSW dioceses also issued strong statements against the bill.

“Such laws which allow the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion are in direct opposition to the right to life and our Catholic faith which upholds that life begins from the moment of conception,” said Bishop of Wilcannia-Forbes Columba Macbeth-Green.

Administrator of the Broken Bay diocese, Fr David Ranson, voiced his “strong personal opposition” to the proposed legislation “in its current form”.

“I also record the formal objection of the Catholic community of the Diocese of Broken Bay,” he said.

“The decriminalisation of abortion is one matter. However, the killing of life, with the liberal possibility allowed for in the legislation, cannot make ours a more human society.

“If with legal sanction we kill those who are most vulnerable, either at the beginning or at the end of their life, we rob ourselves of our human dignity which is best demonstrated in a quality of care exercised even in the face of life’s demand and challenge.

“Such an option represents a gross failure of social imagination and public moral leadership.”

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