NSW Parliament Votes In Favour Of Abortion Clinic Safe Zone

The NSW lower house has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Safe Access To Reproductive Health Clinics Bill.

What you need to know
  • NSW parliament passed the bill with a 61 to 18 majority.
  • The legislation will create a 150 metre exclusion zone outside abortion clinics.
  • The Minister for Women has received criticism for voting against the Bill.

More often than not NSW parliament's lower house, known as the bear pit, is a stage for brutal verbal combat with insults replacing ideals.

But for several hours on Thursday, the chamber was overtaken by passionate and emotional speeches for and against a bill creating safe zones for women outside abortion clinics.

The bill makes it illegal to communicate, film or intimidate women within 150 metres of abortion clinics, punishment includes jail time and hefty fines.

Just after 1am on Friday morning, the bill was overwhelmingly supported 61 to 18.

During the marathon debate, there were personal stories including from Deputy Premier John Barilaro who revealed "more than 27 years ago, along with a young woman, I had to attend one of these clinics".

He supported the bill saying: "As a father ... I would hate to think that my daughters were not able to feel safe entering those clinics."

Among those who voted against the bill, the former and current ministers for women, arguing it doesn't properly protect free speech.

Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, Pru Goward, told parliament "I would so much like to support this bill. I know what it would mean to the women affected, but I cannot. It is a time-honoured practice that parliaments protect free speech".

Tanya Davies, Minister for Women, told the chamber she thinks the so-called sidewalk counsellors outside clinics "are simply offering women another choice, yet this bill will criminalise that offer of choice and the sharing of information".

That position has outraged some of the minister's Liberal colleagues, some privately telling Ten Eyewitness News while they're not surprised, they're disappointed and says it shows why she's in the wrong portfolio.

Labor's Penny Sharpe, who co-sponsored the bill expressed her disappointment saying, "Tony Abbott was the worst federal women's minister we've ever had, Tanya Davies efforts last night shows that she's the worst women's minister we've had in NSW."

In a statement, Davies says "I understand my responsibilities as Minister for Women and voted in accordance of my conscience."

The Premier isn't swayed by the criticism, saying "I have full confidence in all of my Cabinet colleagues."

The laws are hoped to come into effect within weeks.