Kirsty Needham writes about the push for abortion law reform in NSW:
The abortion debate is set to enter new territory in the NSW Parliament this year. That is, abortion will actually be debated. Labor MP Penny Sharpe will introduce a bill seeking to create 150-metre anti-protest buffer zones around abortion clinics to protect women entering the clinics from harassment.
Greens MP Mehreen Faruq has meanwhile drafted a bill that seeks to not only create harassment-free zones, but actually remove abortion from the NSW Crimes Act. All other states and territories, apart from Queensland, have legislated to confirm a woman's right to lawful abortion.
Negative attitudes to women's reproductive rights cycle regularly through our parliaments and women face the prospect of continually fighting for something that is overwhelmingly supported by the community - as Kirsty quotes NSW Greens research:
When the NSW Greens ran polling on the issue last year, 87 per cent of 1000 respondents supported women having access to abortion. A further 81 per supported protest exclusion zones around clinics.
When it comes time to debate these bills, let us hope that the parties and parliamentarians are forced to stop speaking of 'conscience votes' as though we lived in a theocracy. The issue is about 1) a woman's right over her own body and 2) the health of the woman involved. These are not 'matters of conscience' in a democracy. If the parties lack positive policies to support abortion law reform then they should offer a 'free vote.'
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/why-abortion-law-reform-has-been-the-elephant-in-the-room-at-nsw-parliament-20160506-goohz5.html#ixzz484OdI3d7
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Elsewhere, in the Northern Territory, male and female members of the Legislative Assembly debated the question of women being able to access the 'morning-after' drug RU486. Following coverage by the NT News, the Health Minister sought to defuse debate:
HEALTH Minister Robyn Lambley has told Parliament the Government would ensure legislation surrounding pregnancy terminations was “updated” but said it would do it “in our own time”.
Mrs Lambley said the topic was highly controversial and the parliamentary wing was divided between the right to life lobby versus the right for women to have a choice.
The NT remains the only jurisdiction in Australia to not update its Medical Services Act and legalise RU486.