Monica Doumit: Believers dumped, law by law

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Protesters gather in Martin Place, Sydney, to oppose the passage of unrestricted abortion legislation through the NSW parliament, courtesy of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, in 2019. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

A disturbing pattern is emerging in NSW

This Sunday, 26 September 2021, will be two years since the awful abortion till birth laws passed in New South Wales.

As the Facebook memories from the rallies and prayer vigils held at that time have been popping up in my feed over recent weeks, I can recall quite clearly the pain we all felt at fighting a battle we knew we had already lost, because the smooth passage of the abortion bill was assured by secret back room deals that had been made long before Alex Greenwich announced that a bill was about to be tabled.

In announcing the abortion bill back in July of 2019, Mr Greenwich said that it had 15 co-sponsors from different parties. Their support had been garnered while their parliamentary colleagues were kept in the dark about what was happening. Those co-sponsors expected the bill to be passed within the matter of a few days, given that a further backroom deal had been done to ensure government time would be given over to the debate.

It didn’t exactly turn out that way.

The backlash from those who found the bill and the secret deals that were made to ensure it got through, just a few short months after an election where it was not mentioned, abhorrent, meant that the debate lasted for two months.

Abortion. Church closures. A failure to act on religious discrimination. And we might as well add cemeteries to this list as well

As I said, we knew the battle had been lost because it had all been stitched up in advance, but we fought anyway. And the fight did make a difference, because the Premier undertook that there would be no more conscience votes in this term of Parliament, and prohibited party members from being part of cross-party working groups on bills relating to contentious social issues.

Some MPs obviously didn’t get the message (or need to be reminded of it), because Mr Greenwich has announced that there will be up to 30 co-sponsors of the euthanasia and assisted suicide bill he plans to table once parliament resumes next month.

So, even if it wasn’t the anniversary of the passage of the horrible abortion law, this latest development has many recalling how the decriminalisation of abortion went down because we are a little worried that it is going to play out in the same way again, notwithstanding the Premier’s earlier undertakings.

Monica Doumit: Diabolical in the detail

If I was providing advice to any MP on Mr Greenwich’s plans, I would try to help them understand that these are not separate issues for people of faith. The abortion bill was not only a desertion of vulnerable women and their unborn children, it was a betrayal of people of faith, many of whom had voted for a ‘conservative’ government just months before. Support for a euthanasia bill in whatever way it is provided, but in particular with the allocation of government time to parliamentary debate, will similarly be seen as a desertion of the vulnerable and a betrayal of the faithful.

It would also be hard to separate a euthanasia debate from the closure of churches for so many months during the pandemic.

Recall that during the first COVID wave, there was a time when brothels remained open while churches closed. At the beginning of this second wave, churches were closed while shops that sold sex toys remained open in the LGAs of concern. As I wrote previously in this column, this prioritisation of sex services over religious services demonstrated a disconnect between Macquarie Street and Macquarie Fields, one which will only be exacerbated if a euthanasia debate is brought on this term.

People of faith disregarded

Such a debate would also speak to the lack of priority given to issues that are important to the faithful.

As reported in The Catholic Weekly a fortnight ago, the NSW government has delayed the implementation of amendments to anti-discrimination laws that would finally provide protections for people of faith against discrimination in this state.

A bill to provide these protections was tabled by Mark Latham MLC more than a year ago and was recommended by a parliamentary committee that received tens of thousands of submissions. Like the Greenwich euthanasia bill, the Latham bill is also a private members’ bill but it preceded the Greenwich bill in time by more than a year. If time is found to debate the Greenwich euthanasia bill while religious freedom protections are kicked down the road, it will speak to the prioritisation of socially progressive causes pushed by inner city elites over providing basic protections for people of faith.

Abortion. Church closures. A failure to act on religious discrimination. And we might as well add cemeteries to this list as well. Put side by side in any other context, they seem like four wildly different and completely unrelated issues. Put side by side during a single term of a supposedly ‘conservative’ government, and you start to see a very troubling pattern of desertion of the base.

All that is left now is to see if MPs want to add ‘euthanasia’ to this list as well.

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