NSW abortion bill: long overdue change for women’s health and equality

NSW abortion bill: long overdue change for women’s health and equality

The New South Wales Parliament should demonstrate its commitment to women’s health and equality by passing a bill to modernise the state’s archaic abortion laws.

The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019, to be tabled in Parliament this week, would decriminalise abortion in NSW. The Bill will respect a woman’s right to control her body up to 22 weeks pregnancy. After 22 weeks, two doctors are required to be part of the decision-making process. Doctors can refuse to perform or assist with a termination but must refer the person to someone who will be able to assist. This ensures every person can access comprehensive reproductive healthcare regardless of the views of their doctor.

Edwina MacDonald, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre commended the cross-party approach to the bill.

“This is a historic week for NSW. Politicians from across the floor have shown leadership to make sure our law respects every person’s right to control their body and their health. NSW’s existing abortion laws are discriminatory and outdated and it is beyond time for them to change.”

Abortion currently sits in the NSW Crimes Act of 1900, making the state’s written abortion laws the most discriminatory and outdated in Australia. Courts have interpreted the criminal law as allowing an abortion to proceed where a doctor determines that it is needed to prevent serious danger to a woman’s life or physical or mental health.

“We urge MPs to follow the example of their colleagues, who listened to the voices of women, health professionals, lawyers and many others who have been campaigning for abortion decriminalisation for decades. We urge MPs to demonstrate their commitment to women’s reproductive health and freedom by voting in support of the bill,” said MacDonald.

“It is unacceptable that in 2019, women still fear prosecution and are still treated like they are incapable of making decisions about their bodies and lives. The values of 1900 should not dictate a person’s right to access the healthcare they need in 2019,” said MacDonald.

New South Wales is one of three states that still uses the criminal laws to regulate abortion, along with South Australia and Western Australia, however it is the only jurisdiction in Australia to have not reformed its abortion laws in over 100 years.

The Human Rights Law Centre is proud to be a member of the NSW Pro Choice Alliance, led by the Women’s Electoral Lobby.

Media contact:

Michelle Bennett, Communications Director: 0419 100 519