Tension as NSW abortion bill debated

Proposed laws to create "safe zones" around NSW abortion clinics have triggered a pro- and anti-abortion protest outside parliament.

A demonstrator holds a placard in support of safe abortion zones.

The proposed legislation would create a 150-metre exclusion zone around abortion clinics. (AAP)

Pro- and anti-abortion activists have gathered outside NSW Parliament as a bill to create "safe zones" around abortion clinics is debated.

The proposed legislation, introduced to parliament last week, would create a 150-metre exclusion zone around clinics and make it an offence to film staff and patients without their consent.

Labor's environment spokeswoman Penny Sharpe - who co-sponsored the bill with Nationals MP Trevor Kahn - told the crowd of supporters on Thursday that anti-abortionists are blocking paths, handing out misleading leaflets, jostling the women's partners, and photographing and filming them.

"They basically they try and make it as difficult as possible for women to do the very basic thing which is seek medical treatment that is in their best interests," Ms Sharpe said.

"They try to tell them that they are going to hell and that there will be moral and other spiritual consequences".

But Bethany Marsh, from We Support Women NSW, is against the bill. She describes herself as a "sidewalk counsellor" - handing out pamphlets outside abortion clinics to help women in distress.

"I find women that enter the clinic are often doing it because some one is coercing them or forcing them into it, normally a partner or a parent," she told AAP.

"We stand there peacefully with a pamphlet in our hands and if we see a woman in distress or in need of help then we just say 'would you like some help?'".

Fair Agenda campaign manager Alycia Gawthorne said the decision to have an abortion was between a woman and her medical professional.

"We think this is a matter of personal privacy and dignity and that women should be protected if they want to seek to terminate their pregnancy," Ms Gawthorne told AAP.

The upper house is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday before it goes to the lower house in June.

Published 24 May 2018 at 11:48am
Source: AAP