22 November 2013
(Second Reading Debate, 12.16pm 21 November 2013, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
The amendment moved by the member for The Entrance introduces an additional exclusion from the application of the bill for anything done for the purpose of medical treatment. The bill already excludes medical procedures from its application. Adding "medical treatment" does not allay the concerns of the community or of legal and medical practitioners. As I stated previously, abortion in New South Wales is not, as a given, a medical procedure. Similarly, it is not, as a given, medical treatment. Women are not automatically entitled to an abortion in New South Wales at their request, regardless of whether they believe it is in their best interests.
The Crimes Act 1900 makes it a punishable offence with up to 10 years in prison to procure an abortion. It is lawful only if the woman's doctor believes that it is necessary to avoid serious danger to her life or to her physical or mental health, taking into account medical, economic and social factors. The bill adds a new layer of criminality to this already grey area of the law. By giving a foetus personhood—an unborn child with its own rights—it becomes a person that should be protected from harm. The amendment does not change this. The amendment is futile in addressing the serious risk to women's reproductive rights.
If the bill did not in any way pose a potential risk to safe and legal abortions, it would not be the subject of a conscience vote. The position to be taken would have been decided in Cabinet and shadow Cabinet with briefings available to members from staff of the Department of Attorney General and Justice. This proposed amendment clearly does not change the dangerous risks presented by the bill from introducing foetal personhood into criminal law. As such, the bill remains subject to a conscience vote and remains fiercely opposed by women's organisations, medical practitioner groups and secular legal organisations. I am greatly concerned that the Legislative Assembly has just voted to put women's reproductive rights at risk.
The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Sydney will return to the leave of the amendment.
Mr ALEX GREENWICH: This amendment does not alleviate the concerns that have been raised and that is why I am opposing it. I hope that our colleagues in the Legislative Council stand up for women's rights and vote down this bill.