Ms Mehreen Faruqi of the Greens Party has signalled her intention to introduce a bill to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales by introducing a Notice of Motion for the Crimes Amendment (Decriminalisation of Abortion) Bill 2014 into the Legislative Council last week.
Ms Fahruqi told the Sydney Morning Herald that “she wanted to work with Liberal and Labor parliamentarians” on the legislative changes, which were important “as many people are not even aware of the shaky status of the current law”.
Procuring an abortion and assisting with procuring an abortion are currently illegal in NSW under Part 3, Division 12 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), with a penalty of up to ten years imprisonment. Women seeking abortion rely on court decisions following R v Wald  3 DCR (NSW) 25, which found that an abortion could be lawful where:
“a duly qualified medical practitioner terminates a pregnancy in the bona fide belief that the continuation of the pregnancy places the woman’s life or health in greater jeopardy than its termination”.
Ms Faruqi also said a discussion around the decriminalisation of abortion is particularly important due to the controversy surrounding the bills known as “Zoe’s Law”, which aim to introduce a new offence into the Crimes Act for causing harm to a child in utero. One version of the bill has been passed by the Legislative Assembly and is currently being considered by the Legislative Council.
Labor shadow attorney-general Paul Lynch told the Sydney Morning Herald that he believed Labor would give its members a conscience vote on the issue, but warned that the bill could be used by opponents to instead make requirements for abortion even stricter. Liberal Health Minister Jillian Skinner did not comment on the proposed bill.
Each state in Australia has a different set of laws with regard to abortion, including what kind of medical practitioners can undertake it and whether a second opinion is needed. The ACT is the only state in Australia to have completely decriminalised abortion, although Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australian and the Northern Territory all have some kind of legislative exceptions in their laws which mean some kinds of abortion are legally available.
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