NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has delayed the upper house vote on the abortion decriminalisation bill by several weeks, essentially giving in to demands from the more conservative wing of the Liberal Party. This means that the bitter and acrimonious debate over the issue will continue, both in parliament and outside of it.
The bill, which passed the NSW Legislative Assembly 59 – 31 earlier this month, seeks to decriminalise abortion by removing it from the state Crimes Act. It has support across the party divide, and was co-sponsored by Liberal MPs including Health Minister Brad Hazzard and Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock.
However, it has faced strong opposition across multiple parties, who argue that the bill is being rammed through and that the process had been rushed.
It’s worth mentioning that successful amendments were made to the bill by opponents in the Legislative assembly, including a requirement that medical professionals offer counselling to a person seeking an abortion if they believe it would be “beneficial”. Additionally, practitioners must gain “informed consent” in order to perform an abortion; a requirement the Australian Medical Association argues is “confusing”.
However, opponents were not able to stop the bill altogether, which is what proponents argue they are seeking to do.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Berejiklian has also promised angry MPs that no further conscience votes will be allowed during this term of government. A conscience vote – of which the abortion vote was one – is a parliamentary vote in which MPs are not obliged or expected to vote in line with their party.
Prior to the demands, it was expected that voluntary assisted dying (or euthanasia) would be debated in this term.
Parliament is due to resume in three weeks, at which point the bill will most likely be voted on. We’ll keep you posted.Image: AAP