Bill to legalize abortion delayed after pushback in New South Wales

Sydney, Australia, Jul 30, 2019 / 03:02 pm (CNA).- A bill that would decriminalize abortion in the Australian state of New South Wales has been delayed at least a week after conservative complaints that the legislation had been rushed through.

The bill, which has 15 co-sponsoring MPs, would allow abortions for any reason up to 22 weeks of pregnancy. After that, it would allow for abortions if two doctors believe an abortion should be performed “in light of future physical, social and psychological circumstances,” according to The Guardian.

According to the Australian publication The Catholic Weekly, the bill does not mandate any counseling or period of consideration for the woman, and it would require doctors with conscientious objections to refer women to other abortion providers.

The legislation would also make it a criminal offense for individuals to perform abortions without the proper authorizations, carrying a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment for doing so.

According to supporters of the bill, it clarifies what they believe were previously ambiguous terms in penal code with regard to abortion. But according to conservatives who oppose the bill, it opens up the possibility for abortion at any time for any reason as long as two doctors agree.

Under current law, abortion is only legal in NSW if a doctor determine’s that a woman’s physical or mental health is in danger. “Mental health” has been interpreted by courts to include “economic and social stress.”

The law was set to be introduced to the state’s Parliament today and debated later this week. But it was announced Tuesday that the bill had been delayed after concerns raised by conservatives that it had been rushed through without proper consideration.

Joining the opposition were several Catholic and Christian church leaders, including Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP; Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Dr. Glenn Davies; the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia Archbishop Makarios; and Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, co-ordinatory of Australia’s Eastern Catholic Bishops, who co-signed a letter to the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, making their concerns known.

“This bill has yet to be released to the public and as such there has been no public inquiry into the subject, no opportunity for residents of NSW to make their views known to their MPs and not even discussion in the state Cabinet,” Archbishop Fisher told The Catholic Weekly.

“It seems that Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and the architects of this bill are determined for it to pass within days with as little community discussion as possible, let alone providing those being asked to vote on it with enough information to do so in an informed manner,” he added.

“This bill is a bad one. It will allow abortion right up to birth if two doctors agree. It will require Catholic (and other) doctors and hospitals to collaborate by either taking part in the abortion or referring patients to someone who will,” Fisher said.

The legislation would be among “the world’s most extreme” abortion laws, the Catholic Weekly noted.

“It is yet another attack upon the rights of people of faith. Worst of all, it does absolutely nothing to provide alternatives for women distressed about being pregnant who often feel they have ‘no other option,’” Fisher concluded.


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