Significant amendments to extreme bill rejected
Despite strenuous efforts from a number of politicians to secure amendments limiting the extent of NSW’s abortion bill, it passed the lower house 59 votes to 31 virtually unchanged on 8 August.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said he was “deeply saddened” at the progress of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 through the Legislative Assembly. The legislation has been described by critics as among the most extreme ever drawn up in Australia.
“If a civilisation is to be judged by how it treats its weakest members, New South Wales failed spectacularly today,” the archbishop said in a statement.
The few amendments that were allowed “hardly made this bad bill any better”, he added.
“It still allows abortion right up to birth. It conscripts all medical practitioners and institutions into the abortion industry by requiring them to perform abortions themselves or direct women to an abortion provider. It still does nothing to protect mothers or their unborn children or to give them real alternatives.
“The amendments passed today at most made this extreme law a little less bad. Better proposed amendments, such as one to require that a baby born alive after a failed abortion be given lifesaving care, were defeated.”
Dr Rachel Carling, CEO of Right to Life NSW, said the organisation was disappointed with the decision of the majority of lower house MPs to vote for the extreme abortion-to-birth bill introduced by Independent Alex Greenwich and co-sponsored by members from across the political spectrum.
“While I do not agree with abortion at any stage, I am horrified that a majority of lower house members deliberately and wilfully ignored the plight of babies born alive and that one member went so far as to state that informed consent (ie. free choice) is a barrier to abortion for pregnant persons,” she said.
The Australian Catholic Bishops delegate for life, Bishop Richard Umbers, also received the news with “great sadness”.
“Despite this decision, the Catholic Church will continue to provide support, advise and care for all women facing any decision surrounding her pregnancy,” he said.
“The Church does not seek to vilify women who have gone through abortion procedures but rather it aims to support and provide care to those who have undergone such a traumatic and extreme ordeal.”
The bishop thanked all those “who have rallied to oppose the culture of death” proposed in the bill.
“The graces given by God to the people of Sydney as a result of your fervent and tireless prayers and support for life will bring about great good for NSW in ways we will be blessed to witness and in many unknown ways.”
During the final hour of an often impassioned three-day debate before the bill was passed after 11pm, the Liberal member for Mulgoa Tanya Davies failed to gain the required support for her amendment seeking to outlaw abortion on the grounds of sex selection.
She argued that evidence from Victoria showed there were more than 300 “missing” girls in some migrant communities there due to sex selection before birth the years between 2011 and 2015 after that state welcomed a similar abortion law.
“In the absence of any explicit prohibition of gender selection abortion in this bill, such gender selection abortion will, as it has in Victoria, occur here in NSW.”
However, it was argued that Mrs Davies’ amendment could lead to racial discrimination and profiling of women of colour and that sex-selection “is not an issue in NSW”. The majority of MPs supported another amendment expressing disapproval of sex-selection abortion and a review of the situation in 12 months.
Archbishop Fisher thanked the members who spoke against the bill, and those who proposed significant amendments, “often in the face of hostility”.
He urged the Parliament’s upper house members to vote against the “abhorrent” bill and instead to direct the efforts to the provision of meaningful support for women and children.
“I also thank the thousands of people who spoke up on behalf of the unborn and their mothers by contacting their MPs, by maintaining a consistent presence at Parliament House, and by praying for the defeat of this bill at round‐the‐clock vigils at St Mary’s Cathedral and elsewhere, the archbishop said.
“Please continue to pray for a civilisation of life and love, and to make your views known to the members of the Legislative Council, asking them to vote against this bill.”
An upper house inquiry into the bill is due to be tabled on 20 August after which it will be put to vote.