Historic Abortion Reform Bill passed by NSW Parliament

On Thursday 26th September the NSW Parliament at long last acted to remove abortion from the criminal law and regulate it as a women’s health issue with the passage of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 - (now called the Abortion Reform Law 2019). This is a big and very overdue historical moment for women.  

Women in NSW can now legally access terminations up to 22 weeks into their pregnancy in consultation with their doctor. After 22 weeks they can access a termination in consultation with two medical practitioners.

Achieving this in NSW has required a very, very long campaign by numerous organisations and individuals with ups and many downs since the 1960s. This most recent and successful campaign push over several years was sustained by a broad and powerful alliance of organisations encompassing women’s, legal, health, civil liberties and human rights issues.  Some of these -such as WEL and NSWCCL - were long term players for abortion reform of 50 years plus.

This campaign knew it had strong, majority support in the community. The challenge was to persuade enough members of the Parliament to act on the will of the people and in the interest of NSW women. This crucial and politically fraught task was led by an expanding cross-party group of parliamentarians. The Independent member for Sydney Alex Greenwich sponsored the Bill. He was initially supported by MLCs Penny Sharp (ALP) and Trevor Khan (National Party) and Jo Haylen (ALP)  and the Health Minister Brad Hazzard. This cross-party support grew to 15 co-sponsors - which we suspect is the largest cross-party group supporting a private members bill in the history of the NSW Parliament.

The ultimate success of the Bill was dependent on the support of the Premier Gladys Berejiklian who facilitated the Bill and its progress through Parliament and allowed Government members a conscience vote.

NSWCCL congratulates and thanks all the parliamentarians who provided support for the Bill and showed leadership in the extraordinarily long and difficult passage of the Bill though the Parliament.

Given the strength of support for the reform in the community and in the Parliament, it could have been a fairly straightforward process.  It would always be the case that a number of MPs from most parties would hold strong - usually faith based -objections to any abortion reform bill. However, the ferocity and exaggeration - indeed untruths - that characterised some of the internal and external debate were very disturbing not just for their potential damage to this Bill but to long-standing and important Parliamentary conventions relating to cross-party initiatives and conscience votes. See the letter CCL wrote to select MLCs HERE.

The eventual outcome, which allowed its final passage through the legislative assembly on the voices, is a triumph for those politicians – including opponents of the Bill – who worked collaboratively to find sufficient consensus around some critical amendments without undermining the all-important objectives of the Bill.

NSWCCL is proud to have been a participant over the last two years on the WEL Round Table and a member of the Pro Choice Alliance. We thank our representatives on the campaign - Vice-President Dr Lesley Lynch and Nicholas Cowdery AO QC.

The schedule of amendments passed (25 in total) in the Legislative Council are listed HERE. Upper House amendments include; the name of the Bill/Law, providing information regarding counselling, data collection, and coercion and intimidation.

Amendments agreed to in the Legislative Assembly are listed below. 

c2019-040F - Petinos - Agreed to.pdf c2019-040F - Petinos - Agreed to.pdf Regarding counselling/professional standards and guidelines
c2019-036-EF-2 - Williams - Agreed to.pdf c2019-036-EF-2 - Williams - Agreed to.pdf Professional conduct or performance
c2019-048C - Williams - Agreed to.pdf c2019-048C - Williams - Agreed to.pdf Setting up a review in 12 months to examine sex-selection based abortions
c2019-036-EE-5 - Williams - Agreed to.pdf c2019-036-EE-5 - Williams - Agreed to.pdf Regarding conscientious objection by medical practitioners
c2019-031-HE - Speakman - Agreed to.pdf c2019-031-HE - Speakman - Agreed to.pdf Specialist medical practitioner to perform termination after 22 weeks
c2019-036J - Williams - Agreed to.pdf c2019-036J - Williams - Agreed to.pdf Terminations after 22 weeks to be performed only at approved public health facilities
c2019-031-FA - Speakman - Agreed to.pdf c2019-031-FA - Speakman - Agreed to.pdf Informed consent at not more than 22 weeks