Abortion on demand bill defeated in New South Wales

By Dave Andrusko

Greens MP Dr. Mehreen Faruqi

Greens MP Dr. Mehreen Faruqi

A bill that would have essentially legalized abortion on demand until birth was defeated last week in the upper House of the New South Wales Parliament. The tally against The Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016, introduced by Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi, was 25-14. (New South Wales is a state in the southeast of Australia.)

Faruqi “sought to have offences relating to abortion removed from the Crimes Act and common law,” according to reporter Kathleen Calderwood.

The bill would not only have ushered in abortion on demand. Doctors with objections to abortion would have been required to refer the woman to a doctor who does not object.

On top of that the bill would have established what proponents called “safe access zones” (aka buffer zones) of 150 meters around the clinic. Anyone wanting to pray for the mother who came within that zone would’ve been subject to thousands of dollars in fines and/or up to 12 months imprisonment.

Even some “pro-choice” legislators had questions about the scope and breadth of Faruqi’s bill.

“Labor’s health spokesperson Walt Secord voted for the bill as he is pro-choice — but expressed concern that it left no legal framework to allow medically approved abortions to occur,” according to Calderwood.  Secord said, “The bill in its current form places no limit on the gestation at which an abortion can be performed, it does not mandate if it can be performed by a clinician, it does not provide a framework, it just takes [it] away.”

He added that over “the last three years I have not received a single representation on abortion or the need for legal clarification — until [Dr. Faruqi] began her campaign.”

On the surface there appears to be enormous leeway for women to have abortions in New South Wales (NSW). According to Calderwood

Abortions in NSW are currently made legal by an interpretation of the Crimes Act by the NSW district court in 1971.

That interpretation, known as the Levine ruling, allows doctors to approve an abortion if a woman’s physical or mental health is in danger, and taking into account social, economic or other medical factors.

Why the need for change?

Proponents of reform said the current situation created considerable uncertainty for doctors and women, stigmatised abortion, and was archaic.