Australia

Pro-choice, pro-life protesters face off as MPs debate abortion bill

0:00

The NSW health minister has urged his colleagues to support a bill to decriminalise abortion in the state, saying it represents "important and overdue reform".

Pro-choice and pro-life activists faced off in rival rallies, blocking Sydney's Macquarie St outside the NSW Parliament as MPs debated a bill to decriminalise abortion in the state.

If passed, the private member's bill would overturn 119-year-old laws making abortion a criminal offence, replacing them with a standalone health care act to regulate the procedure.

Police attempt to corral pro-choice protesters outside NSW Parliament on Macquarie St, Sydney.
Police attempt to corral pro-choice protesters outside NSW Parliament on Macquarie St, Sydney.
Facebook

Sydney independent MP Alex Greenwich introduced the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 last week with bipartisan support and while Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard have thrown their support behind the draft legislation, there is still considerable opposition. 

On Tuesday afternoon, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged his Liberal colleagues to back the bill.

Pro-choice advocates during a rally outside the New South Wales Parliament.
Pro-choice advocates during a rally outside the New South Wales Parliament.
AAP

Mr Hazzard - one of 15 cross-party sponsors of the bill - said it was an "important and overdue reform" of a law enacted almost 120 years ago when all legislators were men.

"As the minister for health ... I strongly believe women in NSW are entitled to the same legal provisions that exist across Australia," he said.

Outside several dozen pro-life protesters rallied outside NSW Parliament, telling reporters they wanted to remind everyone "that we are supportive of the right to safe, legal and accessible abortion for all".

NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard speaks during debate.
NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard speaks during debate.
AAP

Pro-choice advocates hold placards during a rally outside the New South Wales Parliament.
Pro-choice advocates hold placards during a rally outside the New South Wales Parliament.
AAP

Some helped signs reading "women deserve better than abortion", "abortion is murder" and "choose life".

They were met by a much larger crowd of pro-choice protesters, many chanting and waving banners or signs as they moved down the street and set up outside parliament's gates.

A pro-choice campaigner outside NSW parliament last week. Both sides of the argument have been represented on Macquarie St today.
A pro-choice campaigner outside NSW parliament last week. Both sides of the argument have been represented on Macquarie St today.
AAP

The crush of people blocked off Macquarie St near the parliament building, with Labor upper house MP Penny Sharpe and Greens MP for Newtown Jenny Leong, who today exclusively shared her abortion story with SBS News, addressing the crowd.

Attendees have confirmed to SBS News that pro-choicers significantly outnumbered the pro-life crowd.  

However, the pro-life side has the backing of key crossbenchers and conservative figures within the government.

Pro-choice supporters rally outside NSW parliament.
Pro-choice supporters rally outside NSW parliament.
Twitter

Several government ministers, including Attorney-General Mark Speakman and Planning Minister Rob Stokes, reportedly remain undecided on the bill, while Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has been vocal in his opposition.

The bill is expected to pass in the NSW lower house.
The bill is expected to pass in the NSW lower house.
Twitter

Senior conservative political figure and upper house MP Fred Nile has also launched a petition urging parliamentarians to block the bill.

The Christian Democrat leader has called Mr Greenwich’s bill “extreme” as it allows for later-term abortions if two doctors "consider that, in all the circumstances, the termination should be performed". 

The bill is expected to pass the lower house with bipartisan support and will then head to the upper house’s Social Issues Committee as early as next week.

A report is expected to be labelled by the committee by next Friday.

0:00
Watch: Meet the women who have been pushing for the de-criminalisation of abortion in NSW.
Watch: Meet the women who have been pushing for the de-criminalisation of abortion in NSW.

The bill was developed by a cross-party working group, including Nationals MP Trevor Khan and Labor's Penny Sharpe and Jo Haylen.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch