Dear MPs: Pass the Reproductive Healthcare Bill 2019

MEDIA RELEASE

WEL urges NSW MPs to pass the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019

Sydney – 5 August 2019 − Women’s Electoral Lobby is delighted that the NSW Parliament will begin debate on the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019 on Tuesday 6 August and urges MPs to support its passage.

The Bill is consistent with the framework recommended by the medical, legal and social service expert members of the NSW Pro-Choice Alliance.

Chaired by WEL founder Wendy McCarthy AO, expert members convened by WEL have worked for two years to settle on the sensible, modern, medical and legal framework for decriminalisation in NSW, which the Bill now reflects.

WEL salutes the 15 Parliamentary sponsors from the main political parties who have given personal witness to the urgent necessity of this long overdue reform for the women of NSW.

“Their stance demonstrates that abortion is not and never should be a political issue,” said Mary O’Sullivan, WEL’s Co-convenor for Reproductive Rights campaign.

Neither NSW women, nor our medical and health practitioners should be shamed and potentially criminalised for undertaking a common and safe reproductive health procedure.

WEL is concerned that since Alex Greenwich MP tabled the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill, opponents of women’s reproductive choice have made unfounded and some extreme claims about its provisions and about termination as a health care matter.

WEL Pro-Choice Alliance medical experts from RANZCOG and specialist doctors familiar with reproductive health services are patiently countering this misinformation.

“Amongst the most intemperate and cruel claims are those that recycle recent US rhetoric on ‘abortion until birth,” said Mary O’Sullivan.

In fact, the Bill specifies for the first time in NSW legislation that at 22 weeks gestation, two doctors must consult on a termination. Medical experts tell us that between less than 1% of abortions take place after 22 weeks and almost always involve complex and agonizing decisions in multi-disciplinary hospital settings.

The Bill allows for women suffering these often-painful situations and for the medical and health practitioners who support them.

Other opponents to the Bill want conscientious objection to override a doctor’s obligation to refer to a non-objecting practitioner or service.

The Bill’s requirement that doctors with a conscientious objection refer their patient to another non-objecting practitioner is nothing new. It is consistent with the Australian Medical Association’s Position Statement on Conscientious Objection and with legislation in force in Queensland and Victoria, said Mary O’Sullivan.

This Bill will actually enable regulation of pregnancy termination above and beyond the already stringent regulations that govern all health procedures in NSW.

Mary O’Sullivan concluded, “Other claims including the assertion that decriminalisation will lead to an increase in terminations are not supported by evidence. Decriminalisation in other states has not led to an increase in abortions, rather there is evidence of a decline,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

“If the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019 becomes law women, doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists will finally have the clarity they have long deserved,” she said.

WEL is confident that this is a reform strongly supported by a large majority of people in NSW. We note that at least 70% of Australians believe that abortion should be decriminalised and regulated within the health service and that recent NSW data reflects this. We also know that support for decriminalisation is even higher in rural and regional NSW, where many women suffer severe barriers of access and cost.

WEL therefore strongly urges our MPs to support this historic Bill in its entirety in the interest of their constituents and for the future health of the women of NSW.

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Media enquires: Jenny Muir 0415 401 200

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