Australia

Women who have had abortions declare #ArrestUs ahead of NSW parliament debate

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A private member's bill to be debated in the NSW parliament would allow for terminations up to 22 weeks and later if two doctors consider it appropriate. It has now prompted a social media reaction.

"Arrest us" – that’s the response from scores of women who have detailed their technically illegal abortions under existing NSW termination laws.

As a bill calling for the decriminalisation of abortion across the state heads to NSW Parliament’s Lower House on Tuesday, more than 60 women have taken to Twitter using the #ArrestUs hashtag, daring authorities to arrest them for undergoing abortions.

Pro-choice and pro-life rallies are planned for Sydney ahead of the bill being introduced to the Lower House.
Pro-choice and pro-life rallies are planned for Sydney ahead of the bill being introduced to the Lower House.
AAP

“Abortion is still a crime in NSW. Now is the time for it to change,” organiser Emily Mayo told SBS News, saying the campaign was inspired by a similar mass outing in 1979 that saw 80 women take out a newspaper ad to highlight the issue. 

“It’s astounding that 50 years on, NSW is still debating a piece of legislation that’s 119 years old. 

“And it’s up to us to say something – we’re the people who have had abortions, we could be your sister or your neighbour or the person at the supermarket and we need to have our voices heard.

"The women who took out the ad in the 1970s did it because they could. They had the privilege to be able to speak up and they believed they had a responsibility to do so." 

Responses using the #ArrestUs hashtag quickly flowed in.

Pro-choice advocates and supporters of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill hold a rally outside the New South Wales Parliament.
Pro-choice advocates and supporters of the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill hold a rally outside the New South Wales Parliament.
AAP

“1993 after a sexual assault #ArrestUs thank god I had the choice at the time,” one Twitter user said.

“How dare anyone tell me what I can and can’t do. Thank you to those who were before me and made it possible at this difficult time.”

The draft legislation, introduced by Sydney independent MP Alex Greenwich, has been fiercely opposed by anti-abortion, conservatives and religious groups who have organised a vigil at Macquarie Street on Tuesday morning.

They will be matched by pro-choice activists as the debate heads to the Bear Pit for debate.

Sydney's Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher and Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davis penned an open letter on Monday declaring NSW was "on the edge of a precipice".

"(The bill) not only allows for abortion up until 22 weeks for any reason ... it also allows for abortion for any reason even up until birth provided that two doctors agree," they wrote.

In contrast, Uniting Church moderator the Rev Simon Hansford broke ranks over the weekend to back the decriminalisation.

"When abortion is practised indiscriminately it damages respect for human life," he wrote in his own open letter to parliamentarians.

NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard congratulates NSW Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich as he introduces the Reproductive Healthcare bill.
NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard congratulates NSW Member for Sydney Alex Greenwich as he introduces the Reproductive Healthcare bill.
AAP

"However, we live in a broken world where people face difficult decisions. Respect for the sacredness of life means advocating for the needs of women as well as every unborn child."

Mr Hansford said the church should offer care and support "not stand in judgment".

"Most women who have abortions do so only after a great deal of searching and anguish,” he said.

Long-time Conservative MP Fred Nile has also come out against the bill, with the Christian Democrat Upper House MP launching a petition urging the other house to oppose it.

Christian Democrat Fred Nile has come out against the bill.
Christian Democrat Fred Nile has come out against the bill.
AAP

He began circulating the petition on Monday, saying he wanted to raise public awareness and stop the "extreme" Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019. 

However, the bill is expected to carry the day with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian supporting the draft legislation alongside Liberal Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

The private member's bill, due to be debated in the lower house on Tuesday, allows for terminations up to 22 weeks.

It also allows for later abortions if two doctors "consider that, in all the circumstances, the termination should be performed".

With AAP...

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