• Protesters outside NSW State Parliament urging MPs to support the bill to decriminalise abortion. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
The majority of the state's upper house has voted down a Greens bill that would have decriminalised abortion in NSW.
By
Ben Winsor

11 May - 2:06 PM  UPDATED 11 May - 7:19 PM

Abortion will remain a crime in NSW after members of the Legislative Council voted down a Greens bill aimed at overturning the 100-year-old law.

Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi's Abortion Law Reform Bill was defeated 25 to 14 in the state parliament's upper house.

The bill received support from eight Labor MLCs and all five Greens MLCs, as well as Animal Justice Party MLC Mark Pearson.

Public members in the gallery shouted "shame" as the result of the conscience vote was announced in the Legislative Council.

“I am disappointed that the NSW Legislative Council has voted to keep abortion a Crime in NSW,” Dr Faruqi said.

"[The] position that is completely out of step with modern medical practice, community expectation, and laws in almost all other states.”

The law would have repealed sections of the Crimes Act, provided a 150-metre protester exclusion zone around abortion service providers, and required doctors providing medical advice to tell their patients if they had personal objections to the procedure.

The proposal provided no gestational limits on when the procedure could be performed.

A Greens spokeswoman told SBS World News the law was modeled on the ACT’s legal framework.

NSW and Queensland are the only two Australian states which outlaw abortion.

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The Australian Medical Association believes NSW abortion laws need to be reviewed, but said it was concerned about the breadth of the Greens' bill.

"We agree it is time to review the law in NSW and therefore recommends that the matter should be referred to the Law Reform Commission for serious consideration if progress is to be made," AMA state president Brad Frankum said in a statement.

When introducing the bill, Dr Faruqi said she wanted to give certainty and remove the procedure from the “grey zone” in which it currently sits.

“This uncertainty results in difficulties with access and cost, especially in regional and rural New South Wales,” she said. 

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While supporters have been dismayed by the bill’s failure, it is a decision which been welcomed by anti-abortion activists.

Mark Makowiecki, NSW State Director of the Australian Christian Lobby, says he was quietly confident it would be defeated.

“It’s a victory for women and unborn children,” he said.

“The bill is the most extreme we’ve seen so far.”

The group says that removing gestational limits could lead to women being pressured into getting terminations.

Women's rights groups, such as White Ribbon, worry that criminalisation allows women to be pressured into pregnancy or staying in abusive relationships.

Dr Faruqi accused the Australian Christian Lobby of a scare campaign over the proposed law.

“This bill is far from radical. It is backed by everyone from RANZCOG, the peak body for obstetricians and gynaecologists, to the NSW Civil Liberties Council, to White Ribbon, the Public Health Association, and the NSW Nurses and Midwives' Association, and many others," she said.

"This bill does not change current medical practice on late-term pregnancy termination and to suggest otherwise is misinformed."

Although unlawful, the procedure remains accessible for many in NSW through a number of legal loopholes.

Mr Makowiecki said the ACL would be keen to see further adjustments to the current law, and would like to see other states with laws closer to NSW and Queensland.

“I think the laws in Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT aren’t sufficient protection for women,” he said.

“The Victorian laws are quite egregious, it’s something we like to be repealed.”

- With AAP

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