NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged the public to “trust the process” over attempts to decriminalise abortion as conservative politicians within her government lock horns over the bill.
On Wednesday, the NSW upper house will continue debating a bill to remove abortion from the Crimes Act but will not reach a final vote this week.
It follows an anti-abortion rally led by federal MP Barnaby Joyce on Tuesday as the first day of debate in the NSW upper house carried on into the night.
Thousands of people holding pictures of Jesus and signs that read “abortion is murder” cheered as Mr Joyce told them that the clause in the legislation requiring two doctors to approve an abortion after 22 weeks was “not a reflection of a civilised society”.
“It was a person, and that person has rights, that person does not deserve to die in the corner of a room if it’s born alive. It deserves to be fought for, it deserves to be loved,” Mr Joyce said.
The federal MP had already stepped into the NSW debate on Tuesday, voicing anti-abortion robocalls across the state.
One Nation upper house member Mark Latham is also fighting the bill, despite saying in 2004 that women and doctors – not politicians – should make decisions about late-term abortions.
He has accused the NSW government of trying to “ram through Australia’s most radically extreme abortion laws” and argued that “hundreds of other issues were seen as more important”.
Pro-choice activists have also been gathering at state parliament, arguing that reproductive rights are human rights and that no one should be forced to carry out an unwanted pregnancy.
On my way to support abortion law reform outside NSW parliament house. The most basic freedom is control of our own bodies. If you have an hour this morning and support taking abortion out of the criminal code please join me. #prochoice #abortionlawreformbill
— Jane Caro (@JaneCaro) August 19, 2019
Ironic isn’t it, @Barnaby_Joyce wants to stop women in NSW having access to safe, legal medical abortions, even where the pregnancy places the woman’s life at risk – yet is quite happy for children to live in inadequate welfare poverty, poor education etc
— 💧 Vacuous Fair Dinkum Covfefe _Au Pair (@VacuousNess) August 20, 2019
Ms Berejiklian, meanwhile, has distanced herself from the decision to delay a vote on the bill and drag debate into September. But she said she was comfortable with the move.
The Premier framed the delay as a “breather” that would help MPs fully consider proposed amendments and a parliamentary report into the private member’s bill.
But she insisted the final outcome would be a satisfying one, with the bill thought to have the numbers to pass both houses.
“It’s not a government bill, it’s a private member’s bill. The upper house made that decision yesterday in relation to taking a breather and I’m completely comfortable with that decision,” Ms Berejiklian said on Wednesday.
“I’m not worried at all about any issue which arises.
“Please trust the process – I trust the process. I know the process will deliver an outcome the vast majority of people in NSW are very comfortable with.”
Ms Berejiklian has faced pressure from opponents of the legislation, who have criticised how it was introduced and the time available for public consultation. On Wednesday, she rebuffed the criticism.
“When it’s a conscience vote, people are able to express their views, and I’ve never discouraged free thinking,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“The issue (delaying a final upper house vote) was in their hands and they decided that, but they asked me what I thought, and I’m absolutely relaxed with taking time if that’s going to make people feel more comfortable.”
Shadow treasurer Walt Secord on Tuesday said women had waited 119 years for abortion to be removed from the NSW criminal code “and now the Premier is delaying it to save herself” and her premiership.
The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill passed the lower house 59 to 31.