Bishop Anthony Fisher, who is the organiser of the World Youth Day, pictured in the Chapel at the Catholic Church office in Sydney.
Bishop Anthony Fisher, who is the organiser of the World Youth Day, pictured in the Chapel at the Catholic Church office in Sydney.

Gladys supports abortion reforms as churches slams move

CHURCHES  have slammed a historic bill which is supported by premier Gladys Berejiklian to decriminalise abortion in NSW, claiming it would legalise the killing of unborn babies.

The architects of the bill to allow abortion upon request from a registered doctor up to 22-weeks gestation are confident support is firming in both houses of parliament.

Abortions would be legal beyond 22-weeks, however women will need the approval of two doctors who will determine whether they have a valid medical reason.

Abortions are currently still dealt with under the state's 119-year-old criminal code.

Ms Berejiklian and a number of senior ministers including Sarah Mitchell and Stuart Ayres signalled on Monday they would support the legislation.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who is hoping to introduce the legislation in the lower house today, said momentum was "with the bill".

However Mr Greenwich warned "nothing is guaranteed" with the bill needing 47 votes to pass the Legislative Assembly.

The Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill 2019 is designed to bring NSW into line with other states and territories by regulating the termination of pregnancies as a medical procedure.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has flagged her support for decriminalising abortion in NSW. Picture: AAP
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has flagged her support for decriminalising abortion in NSW. Picture: AAP

The legislation - which is being overseen by Health Minister Brad Hazzard - has been drafted by a group of cross-party MPs including Labor's Penny Sharpe and Jo Haylen, and National Trevor Khan.

It is also being co-sponsored by 15 MPs from various parties.

However several churches are furious over the proposed reforms and are urging members to lobby their local MPs.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher encouraged Catholics to rally against the proposed law, which he described as "an attack on the sanctity of life" that "must be strongly opposed".

Presbyterian Church of Australia Rev. Dr Peter Barnes accused Mr Greenwich and Mr Hazzard of pushing a "myth that abortion is about a woman's reproductive rights and, more insidiously, health care. It is, of course, about killing unborn babies."

(L-R) Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich, NSW Pro-choice Alliance Chair Wendy McCarthy and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard are all backing the bill. Picture: AAP
(L-R) Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich, NSW Pro-choice Alliance Chair Wendy McCarthy and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard are all backing the bill. Picture: AAP

Anglican Archbishop Dr Glenn Davies urged MPs to use their conscience vote to reject the bill, saying widespread community consultation was still needed.

Some MPs also have reservations over the suggested changes.

A spokeswoman for Labor's Edmond Atalla said he didn't support the bill.

"He has concerns that at 22-weeks and over, a foetus is fully developed and (he) does not agree that a termination should be allowed due to a person's social circumstances," she said.

NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard is overseeing the legislation. Picture: James Gourley/The Sunday Telegraph
NSW Minister for Health Brad Hazzard is overseeing the legislation. Picture: James Gourley/The Sunday Telegraph

According to NSW Pro-Choice Alliance, 0.7 per cent to 2.8 per cent of abortions occur after 20 weeks gestation.

Family Planning NSW Medical Director Dr Deborah Bateson said 22-weeks "allows time for the diagnosis of foetal abnormalities that often cannot be detected earlier".

It's understood fellow Labor MPs Tania Mihailuk, Courtney Houssos and Guy Zangari are also opposed to the proposed bill. Several independent MPs plan to support the bill.



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