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Abortion's last battle (for now)

Live report from the NSW Parliament

As Australia’s last state legislature proposes removing abortion from the criminal code, the Bill has been given a new name – the “Abortion Law Reform Bill” rather than the “Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019”. The NSW Legislative Council will sit late tonight.

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That first amendment names what is happening – abortion rather than “reproductive health” is what is being debated.

A second amendment – to change the date the Bill would come into effect – by “proclamation” rather than “Royal assent” – which would allow implementation of the Bill to be delayed – the bells ring for a division (vote count). The amendment is lost 15-25 – which may signal the fate of amendments tonight.

A series of 38 amendments is moved to change “person” to “women” in the bill – when talking about the mother of an unborn child –  raises the  transgender issue of “people who don’t identify as women who get pregnant” as described by  to Labor’s Penny Sharpe. The Green’s Abigail Boyd oppose the amendments  saying “people who are not women have uteruses too” In her view “female person” relates to sex and “women” to gender.  Christian Democrat Fred Nile says “I was shocked to see an extensive bill talking about abortion with the word “woman’ not appearing. It is an insult to the women of this state.” The amendment is lost 23-18.

The “20 weeks instead of 22 weeks” amendment would change the cut-off for extra oversight of an abortion to a slightly earlier stage of pregnancy and restrict late term abortions to life threatening situations. Speakers against lowering the “gestational cut-off” cited the advice of medical specialists and the AMA, and access for rural and remote patients. The Green’s Boyd acknowledged social and economic reasons for some later abortions.

The debate resumes at 8pm, and the chants of the demonstrators outside seem a little louder – or is it that the traffic noise is less. Damien Tudehope Minister for Finance argues argues that moving the date back to 20 weeks would move healthcare to earlier. A number of speakers from both sides of the house raise the issue of “community concern” about late term abortion.

The amendment is lost 15-26

The next amendment concerns informed consent by the mother. The  lower house inserted a provision for informed consent – and this change aims at making provision for people with a disability (unable to give informed consent) to have a termination. The amendment was passed.

Scott Farlow moved amendments, aimed at increasing the chances of survival for a baby. They were considered with amendments moved by One Nation’s Rod Roberts  to add to the number of doctors consulted for late term abortions. Labor’s Penny Sharpe pointed out that these amendments increase restrictions on post 22 week abortions. Damien Tudehope described late term abortions as “discrimination on the basis of disability.”

Both sets of amendments were lost 15-26

Fred Nile moves motion about saving lives of babies born alive. Quotes Victorian figures of 10 per cent of late term abortions involved babies born alive, and Megan Best on nurses telling her of terminated babies crying.

Abigail Boyd of the Greens said that the amendment was offensive and cruel to people having these abortions.

Niall Blair (Nationals) foreshadowed an alternative motion to codify the care that occurs in public hospitals “to put the issue to rest and ally community concern.”

Wes Fang (Nationals) recalled his previous career as a Childflight pilot to say that Nile’s provision to insist that the terminated child born alive be transported to a major hospital may simply remove a right of a family to grieve together.

David Shoebridge of the Greens said the existing law in NSW provides for the medical care of a child born alive from a termination, if that child is considered to be viable.

The debate is adjourned to allow discussions of the alternative amendment overnight.

More to come.

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