Premier Gladys Berejiklian has delayed a vote to decriminalise abortion in NSW after conservative Liberal MPs pressured her for more time to consider it. Independent MP Alex Greenwich introduced the bill last week, with an unprecedented 15 co-sponsors from all sides politics, but it will now not be debated until this week. With debate expected to be held in Tuesday of this week, by the time you read this it is possible the debate and vote will have been finalised. Several senior Liberals were keen to have the bill debated last week but in a heated Liberal Party room meeting last Tuesday, there was a push for the issue to be delayed.
Police Minister David Elliott, Riverstone MP Kevin Conolly, Mulgoa MP Tanya Davies and Vaucluse MP Gabrielle Upton were among those who were worried about it being rushed through. Community Services Minister Gareth Ward defended Health Minister Brad Hazzard’s role in the drafting of the bill, telling colleagues Mr Hazzard’s involvement ensured a sensible outcome. Mr Hazzard and Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock are co-sponsors of the bill, along with MPs from Labor, the Greens, the Nationals and Animal Justice.
One senior Liberal said there was concern MPs had not seen the bill until Saturday night and some wanted time to “talk to their communities” before taking a position. “This really is a complex issue and I do understand people not wanting it rushed through because that could undermine the bill,” the source said. The source said the delay “would mean it will get messy” because MPs will be pressured from religious leaders as well as pro-choice supporters. Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher and a number of religious leaders have written to the Premier asking for an “urgent intervention” so that more time can be permitted for a “proper consultation”.
“It is the dream bill of the abortion industry, which they have already pressed upon other several states; but it will leave unborn children and unsupported pregnant women even more at risk,” the Archbishop said in a statement. Mr Greenwich said he had a “firm commitment” from Ms Berejiklian, and the Leader of the House, Andrew Constance, that the bill would “be dealt with” this week. “I hope opponents of the bill do not use this time to play politics with women’s bodies,” Mr Greenwich said. “But I am pleased that the bill will take priority over government business on Tuesday.”
Mr Greenwich said the Liberal MPs who raised concerns in the party room meeting about the legislation being rushed through had not sought a briefing on the bill, despite being offered one. Mr Constance, who has been a strong supporter of the bill, told the lower house that the bill will be debated on Tuesday and the issue finalised this week. The proposed legislation would excise abortion from the state’s 119-year-old criminal code and create a standalone healthcare act to regulate the procedure. It would allow abortion on request for women up to 22 weeks’ gestation performed by a registered doctor. Women beyond 22 weeks would need the consent of two doctors.
Ms Berejiklian and several ministers have confirmed they will support the bill, which will be the first co-sponsored legislation to be introduced into the Legislative Assembly. Opposition Leader Jodi McKay has also said she would back the bill. The bill has more co-sponsors than any piece of legislation in the history of the NSW Parliament. Both pro-choice and anti-abortion supporters have rallied outside Parliament House this past week in an attempt to influence Parliamentarians who have still to make up their mind as to how they will vote on the issue.
Source: Compiled by APN from media reports