New South Wales Parliament House   

Victorian style abortion laws may be enacted in New South Wales later this year. A leaked Labor Party election flyer listed as one of its policies that ‘NSW Labor will task the Law Reform Commission to decriminalise abortion in NSW’.

Recognising that promoting their agenda on abortion laws in advance of the NSW election was unwise, Labor leader Luke Foley advised that Labor simply wanted to undertake a review of the laws and would ask the Law Reform Commission to conduct an inquiry and present options and recommendations to Parliament.

Such a correction cannot hide the clear commitment that Labor has to liberalising abortion laws. Even if the Coalition is re-elected it is still likely that these amendments will be introduced. There are now many pro-abortion politicians in the Liberal and National Parties.

This was evidenced by the recent introduction under a Coalition government of a law prohibiting communications that are reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety within 150 metres of abortion clinics. This law not only prohibits protests but even respectful offers of assistance to women in need.

This prohibition is particularly unjust considering the evidence of many women around the world that they have been helped by those offering assistance outside clinics.

Further confirmation is provided by the voting record of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian who voted in favour of these exclusion zone laws; voted against Zoe’s law, a bill recognising the humanity of some unborn children when they have been killed by a criminal act; and has stated that she would consider the merits of any bill to decriminalise abortion on its merits. The amendments will likely follow the Victorian Abortion Law Reform Act 2008.

Under this Act, a medical practitioner may perform an abortion on a woman who is not more than 24 weeks pregnant with her consent, without needing to satisfy any additional requirement.

After 24 weeks, the abortion may still be performed if the medical practitioner ‘reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances’ and if they have consulted another medical practitioner who also has that belief.

There are no penalties specified in the Act for failing to consult another medical practitioner. There is also no recognition of the gravity of the procedure.

Although NSW laws are far from a pro-life ideal they at least provide some recognition of the seriousness of abortion and require that the health risks faced by the woman are of such significance that an abortion is a proportionate response.

A further problem with the Act is that health professionals with a conscientious objection must advise that they have a conscientious objection and refer the woman seeking abortion services to a health practitioner who does not have a conscientious objection.

This requirement is unacceptable as it forces a health practitioner to be complicit in an act they consider to be gravely immoral.

The inappropriateness of the law is reinforced considering the ease with which a woman could independently locate a health professional who would be willing to provide abortion services.

Of even greater concern is the requirement that health professionals must participate in an abortion procedure if ‘necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman’.

Pro-life health professionals will do everything they reasonably can to preserve a woman’s life but to expect them to participate in an abortion when they recognise that it involves the killing of a child is something that they obviously cannot accept.

The NSW laws on abortion are far from ideal but the introduction of Victorian style abortion laws will be vastly worse, ending the lives of children, harming women, and causing some of the most intelligent and caring individuals in society to abandon the health professions.

Dr Greg Walsh is the Australian Conservatives Upper House candidate in the upcoming NSW election. This article has been republished from The Catholic Weekly with permission.

Greg Walsh is a lawyer and university lecturer who has taught at The University of Notre Dame Australia, the University of Western Sydney and the University of New South Wales. His previous legal roles...