A bill to decriminalise abortion in NSW has been introduced into the State Parliament this week and has been passed by the Lower House today (9/8/19)
It was introduced into the parliament on 1 August by the independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, and has 15 co-sponsors.
As it is subject to a conscience vote, MPs do not need to vote along party lines. Premier Gladys Berejiklian is among those to list their support, as is Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
Those who have indicated that they will vote against the bill include Police Minister David Elliot, who has argued that more time is needed to consider the bill’s wording.
NSW and ACT Moderator Rev. Simon Hansford wrote an open letter to State MPs.
The letter called for a debate that recognised the complexity of the issues. It also emphasised that a number of social and economic factors lead women to make the difficult decision to get an abortion.
“We reject two extreme positions: that abortion should never be available; and that abortion should be regarded as simply another medical procedure. It is not possible to hold one position that can be applied in every case because people’s circumstances will always be unique.”
“Whilst we encourage our Ministers to remind people of the sacredness oflife, the Church’s role should be to offer care and support leading up to andfollowing a decision, not stand in judgement. Our Church is also committed to support women who continue their pregnancy, and help them within the community.”
“The decision to have an abortion is not just a moral issue but a social one. While some aspects of the current debate attempt to pass moral judgement on the act itself, it ignores the many emotional, physical, financial and social issues that often create a situation where a woman is forced to consider an abortion.”
“The Uniting Church asserts that abortion is a health and social issue and should not be a criminal issue.”
The open letter echoes the church’s previous statements on the issue, which date back to the 1970s when abortion on demand was a key issue. The church previously issued statements on the subject in 1992 and in 2005.
At the time, the Uniting Church avoided language that could be taken as being “pro-life” or “pro-choice.”
NSW is the last state or territory in Australia to consider decriminalising abortion, which is currently prohibited under the Crimes Act.
This legislation dates back to 1900. A previous attempt to remove abortion from the crimes act failed in May 2017.
Jonathan Foye is Insights Editor