A SAD DAY FOR NSW

Written on the 26 September 2019 by Kevin Conolly

"The passage of the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 represents a sad occasion for the state of New South Wales," said Kevin Conolly, Member for Riverstone today.

"Decades after the death sentence was completely expunged from the statute books of this state, it is now back in legislation passed by this Parliament.

"The 'crime' committed by those whose death has now been legally sanctioned is merely the 'crime' of being unwanted.

"Despite my grave disappointment at the retrograde step taken by the Parliament in the passage of this bill into law today, I take comfort from the improvements made to it over the last couple of weeks.

"These include:
Ensuring that babies born alive will receive medical care,
Establishing a mechanism to avert abortion for sex selection purposes,
Requiring informed consent from the woman prior to abortion,
Incorporating the existing common law into the provisions for later term abortions,
Improved provision relating to an offer of counselling for a woman considering abortion,
Prohibiting coercion of a woman to have an abortion, and
Mitigating the unreasonable obligation imposed on a doctor with a conscientious objection to abortion.

While these amendments are not perfect, they represent meaningful improvements to what began as a very bad bill.

I am disappointed that some other sensible amendments did not win support.

The process by which this legislation began its passage through the parliament was appallingly deficient, denying stakeholders the opportunity to provide expert input and denying residents of NSW the opportunity to engage with their local MPs before those members were required to vote on it. These defects were compounded by the decision to allow only five days for an upper house inquiry.

This failure of process has been redressed to some degree by the more serious deliberation over the last three weeks undertaken by the upper house in relation to amendments. At last time was allowed for real attention to the serious implications of the bill and meaningful changes were made to some of its worst features.

The improvement to both process and outcomes in this final phase has enabled me to remain a member of the Government.

Explanatory Note

Some media reports suggested that the bill was passed into law by the Legislative Assembly "on the voices", with the possible implication that this process allowed members to avoid being seen to vote one way or the other.
In fact what was carried "on the voices" was the Assembly's agreement to the upper house amendments. The Assembly, having passed the Bill finally some weeks earlier, did not have another opportunity to vote on the overall Bill today. In accepting the changes made in the upper house, it agreed that the final form of the Bill would be that which emerged yesterday in the Legislative Council.

As far as I am aware all members of the Assembly supported the amendments, so a division of the House on the matter was not required.


Author: Kevin Conolly

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