PoliticsSocial issues

Before we go forward: abortion in NSW

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” is thrown across the floor of the NSW Parliament.

BY Mathew Bell.

“Shame! Shame! Shame!” is thrown across the floor of the New South Wales Parliament as the votes have been cast and a conclusion is confirmed.

Because abortion can not be definitively considered lawful or unlawful in the NSW Crimes Act 1900, women, doctors and anyone involved can face penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment. However, NSW Greens MP Doctor Mehreen Faruqi is fighting against the conservative majority to bring NSW up to par with modern medical practices, and indeed, with our six more progressive states that already specify when a termination of pregnancy is considered unlawful.

Dr Farugi says women in NSW deserve much better then to be treated as criminals.

GetUp, a powerful campaigning community joined the movement in support of women’s rights recently. They gathered outside Parliament and urged politicians to vote for the protection women’s choices.

“NSW MPs must take a strong stance in support of women and reject any debate that abortion is a crime”, said Emily Mulligan, Campaigns Director for GetUp.

The campaign grew massive momentum in the time leading up to the vote, thousands of postcards, signed petitions and letters were sent to MPs seeking to persuade a change in direction.

At the moment, if performed to prevent genuine danger to the woman’s mental and physical health, abortion in NSW is generally considered lawful, the matter of the woman’s economical and social pressures are also taken into account when recognising the legality of this decision.

“The current legal situation achieves a functional balance between the competing needs and interests of women,” says Claire Cantrall, a practicing barrister. Cantrall speaks about the legal realities of the proposed abortion reform, and the lack of specifics in MP Doctor Mehreen Faruqi’s proposal. The bill enables legal abortion in qualified circumstances, and calls for greater penalties in exclusion zones outside clinics to deter protestors and ultimately end a conversation.

Dr Faruqi’s reform bill was voted against 25 to 14. The Liberal and National party representatives and 3 Labor members chose to vote no on the 11th May. The current Crime Act preserves pregnancy termination as limited, expensive and privatised.

This is an interesting, important and quite controversial story. On one side the rights of women are called for improvement, and their freedom of choice is demanded, something most of Australians can understand and agree upon. But on the other hand, complete decriminalisation of abortion can remove women’s rights further, and leave them unprotected without alternative safeguards. There is also a line of trust in this story- without visual or quoted references to the proposed bill and without research; we are left to trust either side of the movement that is enticing our conscience. Before we go forward, I think the reform bill should be carefully re-evaluated. We m must use this momentum and knowledge to correct the careless consequences that are opened up in this suggested reform, ensuring women’s pro-choice rights be more specific, safe and protected.

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