One year after it was introduced into the Parliament by Labor MLC Penny Sharpe, a private members bill to provide much needed protection and privacy for women accessing abortion clinics in NSW will return to Parliament for debate today.
This time the bill - Public Health Amendment(Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill - will be co-sponsored by the National's MLC Trevor Khan as well as Penny Sharpe - a significant step towards cross party support from within the Government. Both the Labor and Greens parties have committed to support the bill so there is a definite chance that it might actually be passed before Parliament rises at the end of May.
The bill seeks to provide effective legal protection for women from harassment and intimidation as they access reproductive health clinics for advice or a pregnancy termination. The level of this intimidation and harassment that women regularly encounter outside these facilities is totally unacceptable. It generates distress, embarrassment - and sometimes fear - and breaches the privacy of women seeking to access a legal medical procedure.
Current NSW laws relating to harassment and intimidation are inadequate in this context - as was the case in other states and territories which have put into place similar specific safe access laws for women's access abortion centres.
NSWCCL's policy has for many years been to campaign for the decriminalization of abortion. Last year such a bill was introduced by Green's MLC Mehreen Faruqi only to fail in the Legislative Council. Nonetheless we are confident that the NSW Parliament will eventually have to accept women’s right to make their own reproductive choices and respond to the strong community support for this right to be reflected in the law.
In the interim we give our full support to this necessary, sensible and proportionate Bill.
Its sponsors are optimistic but we in recent times saw the euthanasia bill unexpectedly defeated in the Legislative Council. All who support this bill need to actively advocate for it over the next two weeks to encourage sympathetic coalition MPs to consider supporting it.