Abortion still a crime in NSW as reform bill fails

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A woman holds a fake fetus during a rally against the draft law of the Chilean government which seeks to legalize abortion, in Santiago, March 23, 2015.
A woman holds a fake fetus during a rally against the draft law of the Chilean government which seeks to legalize abortion, in Santiago, March 23, 2015. Reuters/Ivan Alvarado

A bill to decriminalise abortion was defeated in the New South Wales Parliament. That means abortion will remain a crime in NSW.

The Abortion Law Reform Bill by Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi was defeated 25 to 14 in the state parliament's upper house. It aimed to have offences related to abortion taken out from the Crimes Act and common law.

Pro-life and pro-choice protesters lined up in front of Parliament ahead of the debate. Faruqi has expressed disappointment over NSW Legislative Council’s decision to not decriminalise abortion in NSW.

The bill was supported by eight Labor MLCs and all five Greens MLCs. Animal Justice Party MLC Mark Pearson was also in favour of it.

Labor MP Penny Sharpe expressed his support for the bill, saying the current law is archaic and unclear. She argued that abortion had to be regulated in the same way as all other surgical and medical practices. "[The law] creates barriers for patients and for doctors,” ABC quotes Sharpe.

Walt Secord, Labor's health spokesperson, also voted for the bill as he is pro-choice. However, he pointed that the legislation failed to provide a legal framework to allow medically approved abortions to happen.

Despite the defeat, Faruqi believes it was a historic day for women's rights in New South Wales. She said the fight to make abortion legal in NSW continues.

Research conducted in NSW suggested that a there is significant community support to legalise abortion. According to Echo Net Daily, 73 percent of NSW residents are in favour of the decriminalisation of abortion while 81 percent support the enactment of exclusion zones.

The number of people that support abortion law reform is higher in rural and regional areas. Last year, the Australian Election Study has found that almost 70 percent of Australians believe abortion must be accessible to women.

Faruqi said they were aware that there has been a strong support for the reform. She has reportedly been travelling across the state to several rural and regional areas such as Wagga, Albury, Bega and Byron to share information about the bill.

Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association believes NSW abortion laws have to be reviewed. In a statement, AMA state president Brad Frankum said they agree that it is time re-examine the law in NSW. Therefore, they suggested that the issue must be referred to the Law Reform Commission for serious consideration if progress is to be made.

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