An attempt to legalise abortion up to birth was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament today as hundreds, including a number of politicians, gathered outside to call for an end to the “heinous” bill.
The proposed legislation would allow for abortion up to 22 weeks for any reason and up to birth with the consent of two doctors to consider the mother’s medical, physical, social and psychological circumstances.
Coalition MPs will be given a conscience vote on the bill while NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she will support it. If passed, the proposed law announced on 28 July by Independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, would be among the world’s most extreme.
There is no requirement for a cooling-off period or counselling, and health practitioners with a conscientious objection would need to refer the person or transfer their care to someone who will perform the termination.
The bill was developed by a working group including the Nationals’ Trevor Khan and Labor’s Penny Sharpe and Jo Haylen, with the support of the state’s health minister Brad Hazzard.
It was originally to be debated this week, but Premier Gladys Berejiklian, a supporter of the bill, allowed for a brief delay when coalition MPs pushed back over the lack of consultation.
Pro-life politicians representing various parties including Labor’s Greg Donnelly, the Liberal’s Tanya Davies and Christian Democrat Fred Nile MLC addressed the rally, encouraging protestors and the many more of like mind to continue to lobby their local MPs.
Mr Donnelly slammed the attempt to force the controversial legislation onto the people of NSW. “There has been a deliberate political conspiracy to prevent people being properly informed about this heinous bill,” he said.
Liberal MP Nathaniel Smith said he was “disgusted” at the attempt to ram the bill through parliament “like a dodgy DA [Development Application] at an 11pm council meeting”.
“This is not an issue like a hip replacement, a nose job, a fake tan—this is a human being we’re talking about here,” Mr Smith said.
The fact there was only three days’ notice in which to organise the peaceful rally illustrated the “disgraceful” way the issue had been handled by the bill’s sponsors, said the Liberal member for Riverstone Kevin Conolly.
“This is a serious issue, a life and death issue and somebody thought it was a good idea to rush this monumental piece of legislation within a week. That is a disgrace. Fortunately the Premier has listened to your concerns and given us some time to have our say, and we need to take that opportunity with both hands,” he said.
NSW Finance minister Damien Tudehope, who opposes the bill, was not present but sent a message encouraging the pro-life crowd.
“The only reason proponents of this law are rushing it through is that they know it doesn’t pass the pub test,” it said.
CEO of NSW Right to Life Rachel Carling, who co-hosted the rally, said it made her “sick” to think that the 15 sponsors of the bill “thought it’s ok to ride roughshod over their own colleagues”.
Fred Nile said he was sure that the Premier would be “shocked” by the large numbers of people who had expressed their concern.
“This is treachery of the highest order to try to sneak this bill through parliament and through NSW.”
“This week I’ve received thousands of emails opposing this bill, and I’m sure every member of this Parliament has been put on notice that we can’t support it.”
Mr Nile told The Catholic Weekly he was “just so grateful at the tremendous response already this week from men, women and children who care about the unborn”. “I hope and pray that this will have a big impact on the Premier,” he said.
The decriminalisation bill was being read inside the Parliament as the protest took place.
Independent MP Alex Greenwich introduced it saying that it was 119 years overdue and the result of decades of advocacy. More than 500 people travelled from all over Sydney and beyond to attend the rally called at short notice, with more holding a prayer vigil inside Parliament House.
Not only religious, but a human issue
Families, students and city workers were among the men, women and children at the rally. Christine Taylor of Casula wore a pink t-shirt that read ‘Pro-Life is Pro-Science’.
“So many people say that being pro-life is about being Christian, and my faith is part of my being pro-life, but it is also about being human,” she said.
“There are plenty of people who are non-believers, but they do believe in the humanity of the unborn.”
Stephanie Burke made the hour-plus trip during peak hour from her Wyong home because she believed the bill is “too extreme” and offered no support for women who were vulnerable to coercion to terminate their pregnancies.
“My heart just goes out to the women who experience a crisis pregnancy and are not supported,” she said. “I have two children and I know how vulnerable a pregnant woman can be.”