Abortion law reform bill has its second reading and 1,000 safe abortions via telemedicine in New South Wales, Australia

On 11 August, New South Wales Green MP, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, gave the second reading speech for the Abortion Law Reform (Miscellaneous Acts Amendment) Bill 2016 in the Upper House of the New South Wales (NSW) parliament. It is the first abortion law reform bill in NSW history. She then adjourned the debate to allow time for lobbying of MPs to support the bill. Her speech included the history of abortion law in NSW:“At the turn of the twentieth century, in the year 1900, the New South Wales Crimes Act was passed in this Parliament. The Crimes Act codified the common law crimes of our State. Nineteenth century crimes of the English legal system were brought together in statute and set out as the amalgamated criminal laws of the then colony of New South Wales. Division 12 of the Crimes Act, or sections 82, 83 and 84, related to a woman’s “attempts to procure abortion”, and criminalised such attempts with jail sentences of up to 10 years. It also criminalised doctors who attempt to provide an abortion with 10 years in prison. Sixteen years into the twenty-first century, these offences remain, stubbornly, within the Act.” She goes on to say that the bill “does three things. It repeals existing abortion offences, requires doctors to disclose a conscientious objection, and provides for safe access zones around reproductive health clinics… In practice, much of this is already happening in New South Wales. NSW Health, for instance, provides a Policy Directive for a Framework for Terminations in New South Wales Public Health Organisations. This contains information about the appropriate level of medical oversight for terminations that may be requested in a range of circumstances.”.She also referred to a poll in NSW in September 2015 which found that some 87% of surveyed NSW residents supported the right to choose, particularly in rural and regional areas, where services are less accessible. “There was majority support for decriminalising abortion regardless of party affiliation, including Liberal-Nationals at 75 per cent, Labor at 77 per cent and The Greens at 86 per cent. There was clear majority support amongst men and women and across all age groups.”The text of the bill and explanatory notes can be found here.Also this month, Dr Paul Hyland, the Medical Director of the Tabbott Foundation in NSW, announced that on 9 August, they had reached 1,000 abortions safely via telemedicine, only 300 days after launching the service.On 23 August, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights are holding a special event on abortion law reform in NSW at NSW Parliament House, hosted by Dr Faruqi. A range of speakers will discuss the different political, policy, legal and medical perspectives on abortion law reform in NSWSOURCES: E-mails from Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Greens NSW MP, 11 August 2016 and from the Tabbott Foundation, 10 August 2016, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, quote from Speech of Mehreen Faruqi at ALHR Facebook, 18 August 2016, and her full speech.