From this week I will begin to post on the passage of the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019. Each week, I will write on one aspect of the bill’s passage.
This bill was rushed through Parliament so quickly that so many people are still asking exactly what happened, how it happened and what have we been left with. These are all good questions which I hope to answer for you over the coming weeks.
The bill was first announced on Sunday 28th July with the initial intention of being debated and passed within the week. However, backlash against this idea was swift and overwhelming – both from within Parliament and from without. The Pro-Life movement won a major victory in the initial stages – being part of the reason why the debate of the bill was not guillotined from the floor of Parliament.
The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019, as it was first known, was introduced to the lower house of the NSW Parliament on Thursday 1st August 2019 with Independent MP Alex Greenwich introducing then speaking to the bill.
The following week, against the backdrop of pro-life protestors chanting “love them both” and “my heart beats at 16 days” outside parliament, two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) were devoted to second reading speeches – where MPs set out their reasons for and against the bill. In order they were:
Hon Brad Hazzard (Minister for Health and Medical Research and Member for Wakehurst) applauded the bill, describing it as “long overdue”.
Ms Yasmin Catley (Member for Swansea) spoke in favour of the bill, describing abortion as “an accepted form of health care”.
Mr Kevin Conolly (Member for Riverstone) spoke against the bill with this strong opening statement: “I speak on behalf of unborn children”. Mr Connolly, we applaud you.
Ms Jenny Leong (Member for Newtown, Greens women’s spokesperson and co-sponsor) spoke in favour of the bill describing it as “good” and stating “[i]t is time to get this done”.
Ms Trish Doyle (Member for Blue Mountains) spoke in favour describing this as “an opportunity to correct an historic wrong”.
Ms Leslie Williams (Member for Port Macquarie and co-sponsor) spoke in favour of the bill stating she wished women to be “freed from stigma and fear”.
Hon David Elliot (Minister for Police and Emergency Services and Member for Baulkham Hills) spoke against the bill describing it as “ill-timed and ill-thought-out”.
Mr Greg Piper (Member for Lake Macquarie, co-sponsor) spoke for the bill describing health legislation as the “proper place” for abortion.
Hon Gareth Ward (Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services and Member for Kiama) spoke in support of the bill subject to amendments.
Ms Jodi McKay (Member for Strathfield) spoke in favour of the bill, stating that her faith assisted her in coming to this decision. Ms McKay went as far as to quote Luke 6:37 to justify her position.
Hon Tanya Davies (Member for Mulgoa) spoke against the “radical abortion bill” spending a lot of her contribution speaking up for women and lamenting the mental health problems and distress abortion causes to women.
Ms Jo Haylen (Member for Summer Hill) spoke in favour of the bill claiming: “I am a feminist and always have been proudly and unapologetically pro-choice”.
Mr Nathaniel Smith (Member for Wollondilly) spoke against the bill describing cases of late term abortion to illustrate his aversion to the bill.
Mr Edmund Atalla (Member for Mount Druitt) spoke against the bill.
Mr Ray Williams (Member for Castle Hill) spoke against the bill identifying the “overwhelming animosity towards the bill” as expressed by the public.
Ms Jodie Harrison (Member for Charlestown and co-sponsor) spoke in glowing terms stating that “[w]omen should have the right to opt for an abortion with dignity”.
Hon Dominic Perrottet (Treasurer and Member for Epping) spoke against the bill, stating in his conclusion: “I choose life and I encourage other members to do the same”.
Ms Tamara Smith (Member for Ballina) spoke in favour of the bill dismissing “moral arguments” against the bill and proactively ending with “Keep your hands off my uterus”.
Ms Felicity Wilson (Member for North Shore) spoke in favour of the bill, claiming to “speak on behalf of all women”.
Mr Tim Crakanthorp (Member for Newcastle) spoke in favour of this bill, applauding Newcastle Bishop Peter Stuart for backing the bill.
Hon Anthony Roberts (Minister for Counter Terrorism and Corrections and Member for Lane Cove) spoke against the bill acknowledging and paying tribute “to those people of all ages who participated in the vigil outside Parliament House in the cold weather” and quoting Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”.
Hon Sonia Hornery (Member for Wallsend) spoke for the bill, stating that the reasons why women have an abortion is “nobody’s business”.
Hon Victor Dominello (Minister for Customer Service and Member for Ryde) spoke in support of amendments in a short and convoluted speech in which he questioned “when human life begins”.
Mr Philip Donato (Member for Orange) document concerns about the bill then stated his support for the bill to regulate abortion “as a health issue”.
Ms Anna Watson (Member for Shellharbour) spoke in favour of the bill, citing “victims of reproductive coercion” as a primary reason for her support.
Hon Rob Stokes (Minister for Planning and Public Spaces and Member for Pittwater) spoke against abortion on demand for no reason up to birth.
Mr Jamie Parker (Member for Balmain) spoke in favour of the bill stating that opposition to the bill was “more about controlling women than it is about children”.
Ms Jenny Aitcheson (Member for Maitland) spoke in favour of the bill, while admitting to being brought up Catholic – “my beliefs on social justice have always felt consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church, except in relation to abortion”.
Ms Gabrielle Upton (Member for Vaucluse) spoke against the bill stating that the bill raised “complex ethical, moral, health and legal issues” especially in regards to late term abortion.
Ms Julia Finn (Member for Granville) spoke against the bill describing it as flawed and requiring significant amendment.
Hon Mark Speakman (Attorney General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Member for Cronulla) spoke of being “troubled by the overreach of the bill” and stated that he would decide how to vote at the end of the debate when the final bill was presented.
Ms Prue Car (Member for Londonderry) spoke in support of this bill, stating “I am a woman and I am a mother… I am a policymaker and I am a Catholic from western Sydney. Being all those things, I am very proud to support the bill…”.
Mr Roy Butler (Member for Barwon) spoke for the bill with amendments despite admitting that he did not like abortion.
Mr Alister Henskens (Member for Ku-ring-gai) spoke in support of the bill with amendments.
Mrs Helen Dalton (Member for Murray) spoke for the bill on the basis of “women’s choice”.
Mr Hugh McDermott (Member for Prospect) described the process of the bill as “a disgrace” then spoke against the bill without further amendment.
Mr Justin Clancy (Member for Albury) spoke in favour of the bill with amendment.
Mr Ryan Park (Member for Keira) spoke in favour of the bill, stating “[a]s a feminist, I believe when a woman is denied the right to choose it hurts us all.”
Mr Lee Evans (Member for Heathcote) spoke in favour of the bill describing it as a “thorough and decent bill”.
Mr Jihad Dib (Member for Lakemba) spoke against the bill describing “strong reservations” particularly around late-term abortion.
Hon Adam Marshall (Minister for Agriculture and Western New South Wales and Member for Northern Tablelands) spoke in favour of the bill noting that it would give better access to abortions in rural areas.
Ms Janelle Saffin (Member for Lismore) spoke in favour of the bill identifying it as about “women’s rights”.
Mr Greg Warren (Member for Campbelltown) spoke in favour of the bill stating that “we do not live in a perfect world”.
Mr James Griffin (Member for Manly) spoke in favour of the bill describing his support for “the rights of a woman to have self-determination over her body”.
Mr David Mehan (Member for The Entrance) spoke in favour of the bill which he believed “strikes an appropriate balance”.
Hon Matt Kean (Minister for Energy and Environment and Member for Hornsby) spoke in favour of the bill. He stated: “I am Catholic. I love the church. I love my faith. But it is not right to impose my faith on the people of this State. I came into this Parliament as a progressive Liberal, and as a progressive Liberal I proudly serve today.”
Mr Stephen Kamper (Member for Rockdale) stated his intention to abstain from the vote because of the lack of mandate to vote one way or the other.
Hon Shelley Hancock (Minister for Local Government and Member for South Coast, co-sponsor) spoke in support, lecturing the chamber on women’s rights to make decisions about their own bodies.
Ms Kate Washington (Member for Port Stephens) spoke in support describing her frustration – even anger – “that we have to debate the simplest of things: the right for women to choose what happens to their own bodies”.
Hon John Sidoti (Minister for Sport, Multiculturalism, Seniors and Veterans and Member for Drummoyne) spoke against the bill: “We must do what is right” he said, “We must do what is respectful of the one thing we all have, and that is life”.
Dr Joe McGirr (Member for Wagga Wagga) spoke against the bill drawing on his “personal perspective… which comes from my position as a Catholic and a doctor”.
Ms Eleni Petinos (Member for Miranda) spoke against the bill rightly noting that “it takes more courage to defend your convictions than to remain a silent part of the majority”.
Mr Stephen Bali (Member for Blacktown) spoke against the bill stating that it failed to support women grappling with decisions around abortion.
Hon Paul Toole (Minister for Regional Transport and Roads and Member for Bathurst) stated that he would make a final decision after seeing amendments, citing issues especially around doctor’s rights to conscience.
Ms Liesl Tesch (Member for Gosford) spoke in support of the bill in the belief that she was “voting for a better future for women in this State”.
Ms Robyn Preston (Member for Hawkesbury) spoke against: “I am here as a woman who is a mother… My philosophy is driven by my Christian values. I am pro-life.”
Mr David Harris (Member for Wyong) spoke in strong support of the bill stating that to do otherwise would be “sending a terrible message to the community”.
Mr Michael Johnsen (Member for Upper Hunter) spoke against the bill describing his personal experience of being adopted and ending with: ” It is time to put humanity front and centre. I urge every member of this Parliament to put their political beliefs and ideologies aside and bring to the front and centre the value of humanity, whether born or unborn.”
Mr Paul Scully (Member for Wollongong) spoke in support saying that it was time for this issue “to be dealt with properly”.
Mr Peter Sidegreaves (Member for Camden) spoke strongly against the bill. He stated that “human life begins at conception”.
Mr Nick Lalich (Member for Cabramatta) spoke against the bill citing “ethical and moral concerns”.
Mr Guy Zangari (Member for Fairfield) spoke against the bill stating that “members should have been afforded time to conduct extensive consultations prior to debate on the bill”.
Mr Ron Hoening (Member for Heffron) spoke in favour of the bill and of “the concept of a woman’s right to choose”.
Ms Tania Mihailuk (Member for Bankstown) spoke against the bill citing both her faith and her concerns over the process as reasons for her decision.
Hon Stuart Ayres (Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney and Member for Penrith) spoke in favour of a “women’s right to choose”.
Hon Andrew Constance (Minister for Transport and Roads and Member for Bega) spoke in favour of the bill.
On Thursday 8th August, the second reading vote on the bill saw the bill pass by 56 to 33. This showed us the near-impossibility of being able defeat the bill – the numbers were clearly against us.
What followed was a vigorous and exhausting debate on amendments in the lower house which I will summarise in a later edition.
I believe it is important for us to learn some lessons from this initial preview. Pro-life voices must be heard more clearly within government in the coming terms. We were heard outside Parliament, but our voices were not strong enough inside – with a few notable exceptions highlighted above.
In an interesting to note in conclusion of Part 1 that this initial debate was held during “National Missing Person’s Week” – what irony!