NSW Greens MP Dr Mehreen Faruqi has introduced a bill to decriminalise abortion into the New South Wales Legislative Council. The Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016, would repeal the offences under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) that relate to abortion and also provides for exclusion zones (or ‘safe access zones’) around premises at which abortions are provided. The Bill, which was foreshadowed as early as 2014, is expected to face stiff opposition, particularly from the Christian Democrats, in the Legislative Council.
Introducing the Bill into Parliament, Dr Faruqi said:
“The law must be brought into line with reality and with modern medical practice. There must be watertight protections for patients and their doctors so they can be absolutely confident that they are on the right side of the law. We must make sure that patients are able to easily afford and access one of the most common medical procedures in privacy, safety and dignity.”
NSW and Queensland are currently the only states which have not specifically legislated for access to abortions. Currently, access to abortions in NSW is governed by common law, with R v Wald (1972) 3 DCR (NSW) 25 establishing that abortion may be lawful if there is an “economic, social or medical ground or reason” or that the procedure is necessary to avoid serious danger to a pregnant woman’s life, physical or mental health.
The Bill would amend the Crimes Act 1900 to repeal the offences currently contained in Part 3, Division 12 of the Act. The Bill would also abolish ‘[a]ny rule of common law that creates an offence in relation to procuring a woman’s miscarriage’.
The Bill also modifies the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, to insert provisions into section 139C, which deals with ‘Additional matters that constitute unsatisfactory professional conduct of medical practitioners’. The Bill would make ‘failing to disclose conscientious objection to abortion and refer person elsewhere” a matter under this section.
Finally, the Bill amends the Summary Offences Act 1988 to introduce 150 metre radius “exclusion zones” around premises where abortions are provided, or pedestrian access points to buildings housing such premises. The Bill would introduce a new Part 2, Division 1A – “Prohibited behaviour around premises at which abortions are provided”. There would be three new offences within exclusion zones:
Police officers would also have the power to seize material suspected on reasonable grounds to provide evidence of the commission of an offence.
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Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016, Explanatory Memorandum & Second Reading Speech - available from TimeBase's LawOne Service
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