Hunter MPs put abortion on State Parliament's agenda
30th July 2019
Source: Newcastle Herald | By: Helen Gregory | Posted: July 30, 2019
MAITLAND MP Jenny Aitchison will never forget being a teenager and watching her friend having to travel many hours for an abortion.
She said the experience informed her belief that abortion was a personal choice and sparked her desire to get involved in politics.
"She had to go up and back in a day and work that night and pretend nothing had happened," she said.
"That's not something a civil society does. It's such a difficult process and to have the law involved just creates a whole rationale for stigma and shame that some people attach to it."
Ms Aitchison and independent Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper are two of the 15 members of parliament from across the political spectrum co-sponsoring a bill to decriminalise abortion in NSW.
Independent MP Alex Greenwich planned to introduce the bill on Tuesday, but this was postponed to Thursday after some Liberal MPs asked Premier Gladys Berejiklian for more time to consider it. Debate will start next Tuesday.
"Women in NSW have waited nearly 120 years for this legislation to be removed," Ms Aitchison said.
"While those of us who have waited and advocated for so long must continue to wait, I am hopeful we will achieve the change that so many women have been seeking over the generations."
Ms Aitchison said she had seen "hysterical" comments made in the USA where some states have banned abortion, even in the case of rape and incest.
"We have to make a stand that women have the right to determine whether they have a child or not," she said.
She said it was never an easy decision to terminate a pregnancy. "But we have to look at the person that's here in front of us."
Mr Piper said he was co-sponsoring The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 because he wanted to support "other progressive members of the Parliament who back the rights of women to make their own choices about their reproductive health without the spectre of criminality".
"I believe the issue of terminating pregnancies should be treated as a matter of reproductive health rather than a criminal code," he said.
Ruby Hackett, 16, who helped organise a pro-choice rally in Newcastle on July 21 said she was "super happy" about the bill.
"It's what we've been fighting for and I hope that we can follow the other states' lead."
The Crimes Act 1900 says "unlawfully procuring an abortion" is punishable by imprisonment, but stipulates an abortion is not unlawful if a doctor believes it is necessary to save a woman's life, or protect her physical or mental health.
The new bill will remove abortion from the state's criminal code, create a standalone healthcare act to regulate the procedure and allow abortion on request for women up to 22 weeks gestation performed by a registered doctor.
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