Abortion bill will allow termination based on sex

LEGISLATION to decriminalise abortion passed the lower house last night after a stunning debate in which MPs voted against a move preventing gender selective terminations.

The bruising debate for Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who now faces a ministry bitterly divided on the issue, ended with some MPs cheering the passage of the bill just after 11pm, 59 votes to 31.

Cartoonist Warren Brown’s take on the abortion bill debate.
Cartoonist Warren Brown’s take on the abortion bill debate.

The vote took place minutes after former women's minister Tanya Davies told parliament 300 girls were "missing" in Victoria after similar legislation was adopted there.

Her proposed amendment to explicitly rule out gender selection was defeated, with MPs instead supporting an amendment which expressed disapproval of the practice.

The legislation, which now moves to the upper house, will also be reviewed in 12 months to determine whether more foetuses of a particular gender are being terminated.

 

 

Ms Davies pointed to a recent study from La Trobe University in Melbourne which she said showed "sound evidence of distorted sex ratios in births in Victoria for the children of mothers born in China and India".

"In fact there are over 300 missing girls in Victoria due to sex selection before birth in the Indian, Chinese and South East Asian migrant communities between 2011 and 2015," Ms Davies said.

"In that five-year period, which I note was after Victoria's abortion law reform was in place, there were on average 37 girls each year missing from Indian born mothers and 24 girls each year missing from Chinese born mothers."

 

Former women’s minister Tanya Davies debates the bill last night. Picture: Joel Carrett
Former women’s minister Tanya Davies debates the bill last night. Picture: Joel Carrett

Ms Davies said the research pointed to "abortion following the identification by ultrasound of the sex of the unborn child as female as the primary mechanism by which the cultural preference for a male child is given effect. If one little girl, a toddler, were to go missing today … we would mobilise all our resources and try to desperately find her".

"In the absence of any explicit prohibition of gender selection abortion in this bill, such gender selection abortion will, as it has in Victoria, occur here in NSW."

One member yelled "disgusting" as she moved the amendment.

 

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman. Picture: Joel Carrett
NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman. Picture: Joel Carrett

 

Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams. Picture: Joel Carrett
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams. Picture: Joel Carrett

Nationals MP Leslie Williams said the amendment could have a "very dangerous effect" of "opening the doors to discrimination and profiling of women of colour based purely on negative stereotypes about their communities".

Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward, who lives with albinism, said he felt "incredibly emotional" about the abortion debate.

"The prospect of designer children should appal every member of the house," he said.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard opposed Ms Davies' amendment, saying he had not been made aware of any evidence of terminations on the basis of gender in NSW.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman opposed Ms Davies' amendment over a lack of detail, but said it was something he would like to see addressed in legislation.

Families, Communities and Disability Services Minister Gareth Ward with premier Gladys Berejiklian
Families, Communities and Disability Services Minister Gareth Ward with premier Gladys Berejiklian

"She raises an entirely legitimate and grave concern about sex selection," he said.

"This is an incredibly important issue … it's something I want to see addressed."

Mr Hazzard faced serious questions about whether he had misled parliament during the debate on the gender selection issue.

He said late term abortions could be carried out for "clinical" reasons only.

Mr Speakman, who proposed a series of amendments to the legislation, told Sky News a woman could choose "abortion below 22 weeks for any reason".

Ms Berejiklian, who has faced criticism for failing to explain why she was supporting the legislation originally moved by independent MP Alex Greenwich, which would allow for abortions for ­"social" reasons, now faces attempts to reunite her Cabinet amid bitter divisions.



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