NSW Parliament Just Voted To Keep Abortion In The Crimes Act

Protesters shouted "shame" as the result was read out.

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Today the New South Wales legislative council voted on whether or not to decriminalise abortion, and if you’re a person who believes women should have the right to decide what happens to their bodies then the news is not good.

The bill, brought forward by Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi, sought to remove abortion from the Crimes Act, while also imposing a 150-metre safe zone around abortion clinics in order to protect women from abuse, intimidation and harassment from pro-life protesters.

Under current NSW law, it is illegal to procure an abortion without the approval of a doctor who believes the procedure is “necessary to preserve the woman involved from serious danger to her life or physical or mental health”. Doctors are permitted to consider financial and social factors when deciding whether an abortion is “necessary”, however patients must first argue their case to GPs (who aren’t guaranteed to be sympathetic). Anyone who seeks to unlawfully procure an abortion can technically be punished with up to 10 years imprisonment.

MPs were permitted a conscience vote, but when the dust settled, Faruqi’s bill was defeated 25 to 14. Not a single member of the Liberal-National government voted in favour. 21 out of 25 MPs who voted against the bill were men.

Pro-choice activists gathered outside of parliament ahead of the vote, while members of the public gallery were heard shouting “shame” as the result was read out.

Dr Faruqi blamed the bill’s defeat on a parliament “dominated by conservative men” who she accused of caving to religious pressure groups. “It is a shame that these politicians didn’t have the courage to see through the highly resourced and highly organised scare campaigns waged by the Catholic Church and other anti-choice groups,” she said in a statement. “Ultimately, they will have to explain to their communities why they refused to support this pro-choice bill.”

Community action group GetUp! called the decision “disgraceful”.

Of course, as Junkee’s Matilda Dixon-Smith wrote yesterday, laws prohibiting abortion don’t actually do much to prevent people from terminating unwanted pregnancies. Rather, they simply force them to resort to unsafe measures, or travel interstate (at their own expense), in order to do so.

Abortions are freely accessible on request in Victoria, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT, while various levels of criminal restriction apply in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.

Feature image via GetUp!/Twitter.