At about 1:26am this morning (8th June 2018) the NSW Parliament passed the Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill 2018. It had been a long day and night. While there was little doubt that the Bill had majority support, its cross-party supporters had to fend off 19 separate amendments which would have in various ways undermined the object of and the effectiveness of the Bill.
In the end all amendments were defeated and the Parliament did the right thing by women and endorsed the Bill by 62 votes to 18 - a comfortable majority of 44.
This is a very significant and overdue win for women in NSW. They are now protected by law from the distressing harassment and invasion of privacy that so many have had to endure when entering a reproductive clinic for an abortion or other medical support about their reproductive health. Staff working in these clinics will also be spared from both direct harassment and the stress of receiving distressed clients who have had to run the gamut of such harassment.
NSWCCL joined many others in supporting this Bill since it was introduced into Parliament by ALP MLC Penny Sharpe a year ago. In doing this, we were conscious that the effect would be to constrain some rights of anti-abortion protesters around reproductive clinics offering abortion services. However given the objective was the protection of women accessing lawful services from serious harassment and intimidation in a limited zone, we consider its provisions to be reasonable and necessary.
The Bill was successful because of cross party support that was achieved in recent weeks. The Labor Party and the Greens supported it - the Government allowed a conscience vote and National Party MLC Trevor Khan gave the Bill the needed extra support by co-sponsoring it with Penny Sharpe.
It is a very welcome outcome.
Hopefully it is a prelude to the eventual decriminalization of abortion in NSW.