Abortion Decriminalised In NSW In 'Historic' Moment
After weeks of debate, a controversial bill to decriminalise abortion in NSW has cleared its final hurdle.
The lower house gave the final tick of approval on Thursday morning, meaning abortion will be taken out of the criminal code.
It overturns a law that has been in place for more than a century.
The legislation allows for terminations up to 22 weeks and later if two doctors agree that an abortion is needed to prevent serious danger to a woman's physical or mental health.
Sleep-deprived MPs settled on a series of amendments in the upper house on Wednesday before passing the bill 26 votes to 14 and paving the way for a final vote in the lower house hours later.
"This bill is obviously more than a symbolic act," Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who introduced the bill, said after it passed.
"It regulates the termination of a pregnancy as a health care issue. It takes it out of the crimes act and regulates it properly. Now in NSW, women can safely, legally and freely obtain an abortion," he continued.
Labor MP Penny Sharpe, who co-sponsored the bill, said that it had been a long but also "very important journey".
"This is a massive step forward for women in NSW, it's long overdue and I just want to thank everyone who has been involved in getting us here," she said.
Meanwhile, labor MP Jo Haylen, who was also a co-sponsor, said the decision affirmed that NSW trusted women to make decisions about their bodies on what was a "historic" day.
According to Liberal MP Shayne Mallard, it was the third-longest debate ever held in the NSW upper house, with 102 amendments discussed over 40 hours.
Greenwich confirmed that there had been a total of 72 hours of negotiations between the two houses.
Among the dozens of amendments put forward, just nine passed.
They include the changing of the bill name from Reproductive Health Care Reform bill to Abortion Law Reform bill, guidelines for when a person does not have the capacity to give consent, protections for doctors who object to the practice and the prevention of sex-selection abortions.
The response in the moments after Thursday's final vote was overwhelmingly positive with many politicians and activist groups taking to social media to applaud the decision.
"The new legislation explicitly acknowledges a woman’s right to make choices as an equal alongside her doctor and removes the stigma of criminality from this common healthcare procedure, which around 1 in 4 women have had,” NSW Pro-Choice Alliance Chair Wendy McCarthy said.
“For too long women in NSW sought abortions under the threat of prosecution".
The Humans Rights Law Centre also welcomed the change.
“Every single one of us should have the freedom to control our bodies and decide what is right for our lives," Sydney Legal Director Edwina MacDonald, said in a statement.
Liberal MP Tanya Davis, who plotted a leadership spill against the premier, told the media that is was a day of "mixed emotions" but conceded that the bill was passed in "better shape than when it started".
The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Rev Anthony Fisher was among those who slammed the passing of the abortion bill, labelling it "the worst law passed in New South Wales in modern times" and "a defeat for humanity".
"Even though abortion on demand right up to birth has now been formally legalised in this state, our commitment to life continues," he said in a statement.
"We can still put an end to the scourge of abortion in this state by making it unnecessary, no matter what the law says".