Tens of thousands of parishioners across Sydney signed a petition last weekend voicing their opposition to proposed changes to abortion laws in NSW.
The petition was the initiative of an online grass roots campaign called Abortion Rethink, started by a group of young women concerned about the proposed changes to the law.
The proposed legislation would allow abortion of viable babies right up until birth, increase potential danger to women, require doctors who object to abortion to refer women for abortions, and limit freedom of speech for NSW residents.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP put his full support behind the campaign, making an urgent call last week for all Catholics and people of goodwill to defend life and give the unborn a voice by signing the petition addressed to the Members of the NSW Parliament.
The Archbishop urged Catholics to sign the petition in their local parishes last weekend as the deadline for the petition was Monday 1 May.
The proposed changes to the law have been put before the NSW Parliament in two bills: The Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 put forward by Greens Party MLC, Mehreen Faruqi, and the Summary of Offences Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2017, put forward by Labor Party MLC Penny Sharpe.
The first of these bills, often referred to as the Faruqi Bill, is calling for the legalisation of abortion right up until birth, for medical practitioners with a conscientious objection to abortion to be required to refer women for abortions, and for buffer zones of 150 metres to be enforced around abortion clinics, making it illegal to hold prayer vigils or to offer assistance to pregnant women within those zones.
Violating the buffer zones would be punishable with up to 12 months imprisonment or thousands of dollars in fines.
The Faruqi Bill would also repeal all laws punishing unlawful abortion thereby permitting abortions to be performed by unqualified people. As the petition from Abortion Rethink stipulates, this would greatly increase the potential dangers to women. Furthermore, there would be no safeguards to ensure that women were not being coerced into abortion.
The petition states, “This Bill disregards the reality that many women have abortions as a result of pressure, coercion, lack of support and/or domestic violence from others, particularly their male partners, and it removes protections for the health of women.”
The second bill is also calling for exclusion zones around abortion clinics, limiting freedom of speech for NSW residents.
Abortion Rethink also organised a panel of experts to address Members of NSW Parliament on the consequences of enacting the proposed changes to abortion laws. The panel held on 3 May was open to the public and included Obstetric and specialist medical practitioners, policy and legal experts, psychotherapists and support workers and post-abortive women sharing their personal testimonies.
The proposed legislation was scheduled to be debated in NSW Parliament during the week ending 5 May.