Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi has today introduced a bill to update the "116 year old archaic and now irrelevant" inclusion of abortion in the crimes act in NSW.
"We know that many in NSW don’t know that that abortion is a criminal offence until they or someone they know needs to access one but there is strong support for it being removed from the act and decriminalised," she said.
The bill, a draft of which has been in circulation for two months, also seeks 150 metre exclusion or “safe access” zones around abortion providers to protect patients against "ongoing harassment, abuse and intimidation" outside clinics.
Faruqi sought to reassure any of her fellow parliamentarians with "lingering discomfort" about decriminalising abortion that the right to choose had "overwhelming support" in the community with 70% of Sydney-siders supporting decriminalisation and 87% supporting safe access zones.
This support was even higher in regional and rural NSW, she said, where 80% supported decriminalisation and 93% supported exclusion zones. Women in regional areas often had to travel to procure abortion, sometimes "at great cost", she said.
"This bill is about access, it is about making access unambiguous but also removing the barriers that keep abortion services privatised and expensive, especially for rural and regional women."
"The criminalisation of abortion leads to its ongoing stigmatisation. People don’t like to talk about it. There is a deep shame in the procedure. This should not be the case."
Faruqi paid homage to the decades of campaigning by "generations of feminist activists, doctors, lawyers, and people in the community" to repeal the criminal laws governing abortion.
"Over the decades many people - women particularly - have suffered as a result of the criminalisation and stigmatisation of abortion," she said.
"Many of these wounds are irreversible, and I hope that one day this parliament will perhaps reflect on and acknowledge this in a more meaningful and sustained way."
Gina Rushton is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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