This opinion was written in response to MLC Mehreen Faruqi’s defeated bill in NSW upperhouse (May 2017). The Bill was to decriminalise abortion in NSW. At the date of posting abortion is still in the criminal code in two Australian States, New South Wales and Queensland.
This opinion was printed in the Newcastle Herald.
Abortion in NSW Australia Remains a Criminal Matter.
It’s 2017 and a dead NSW citizen has greater bodily autonomy than a living uterus-owning NSW citizen. A bill came before the NSW Legislative Council this month to remove abortion from the Crimes Act, enact safe access zones around abortion clinics, and to require doctors to disclose conscientious objection and refer patients onto those who do not have such an objection. The bill failed, with 64 per cent of our representatives voting against it. Not one Liberal or National party member voted for the bill.
A vote against this bill effectively says our legislators believe from conception the government should have greater rights over the human organ of the uterus than the uterus owner. Yet we live in a society where a dead person has the right not to donate perfectly good organs that could preserve an actual human life.
Yes, common law has provided an avenue for abortion by allowing termination if the woman concedes she is mentally, physically, or economically unfit. Not that she has bodily autonomy.
The bill’s result does not reflect community expectations. The Medical Journal of Australia says “a majority of Australians support laws that enable women to access abortion services after 24 weeks’ gestation”. The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2003 found “81 per cent of those surveyed believed a woman should have the right to choose whether or not she has an abortion” with “77 per cent of those who identify as religious also supporting a woman’s right to choose”.
“It’s 2017 and a dead NSW citizen has greater bodily autonomy than a living uterus-owning NSW citizen.”
A major objection to the bill was a lack of regulation for late-term abortions, but only 0.7 per cent of abortions that now take place are after 20 weeks, and there is no evidence of more late-term abortions in ACT where a similar practice has been in place since 2002. Failing to find any science to support the objection, a lack of external regulation on other medical procedures, and the fact numerous studies have proven safe and legal abortions reduce late-term pregnancy terminations, one must concluded the lack of regulation issue is grounded in religious morals. Others claim the vote failed due to the gender construct within parliament, but, by gender, the vote was very similar with only 44 per cent of female and 31 per cent of male representatives voting for the bill. I would suggest the disproportional religious representation in our parliament crosses genders.
Both Labor and Liberal claimed MLC Mehreen Faruqi was using the bill for political purpose. And of this, I’m extremely confident. Faruqi has used the system and backed the parliament into telling the public their truth on female bodily autonomy. The truth that they believe abortion is a criminal matter. Their argument against the bill was grounded in religious belief, which leads one to believe either they’re overly religious or religious organisations have disproportional influence within their parties.
Either way, they are completely out of step with the people they represent, even the majority of religious ones. However, I understand their anger, no one likes to be made to speak their truth when it’s this ugly.
Disclosure: I’m an atheist and I have a uterus.
Jacqueline Haines is a social entrepreneur who champions sexual and reproductive health and rights
How did the NSW Parliament Vote?
Jeremy Buckingham (Greens), Mehreen Faruqi (Greens), Justin Field (Greens), John Graham (Labor), Mark Pearson (Animal Justice Party), Daniel Mookhey (Labor), Peter Primrose (Labor), Adam Searle (Labor), Walt Secord (Labor), Penny Sharpe (Labor), David Shoebridge (Greens), Mick Veitch (Labor), Lynda Voltz (Labor), Dawn Walker (Greens).
Lou Amato (Liberal), Niall Blair (Nationals), Robert Borsak (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers), Robert Brown (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers), David Clarke (Liberal), Rick Colless (Nationals), Catherine Cusack (Liberal), Greg Donnelly (Labor), Scott Farlow (Liberal Party), Ben Franklin (Nationals), Duncan Gay (Nationals), Trevor Khan (Nationals), Scot MacDonald (Liberal), Natasha Maclaren-Jones (Liberal), Shayne Mallard (Liberal), Taylor Martin (Liberal), Sarah Mitchell (Nats), Paul Green (Christian Democratic Party), Don Harwin (Liberal), Shaoquett Moselmane (Labor), Fred Nile (Christian Democratic Party), Greg Pearce (Liberal), Peter Phelps (Liberal), Bronnie Taylor (Nationals), Ernest Wong (Labor).
DID NOT ATTEND: 2
Catherine Cusack (Liberal), Courtney Houssos (Labor).
Please give us a hand and share the love
Medical Disclaimer: You agree that any information contained in our Site or Materials or provided with our products is provided to you as a guide only and is not an attempt to practice medicine or provide medical advice. Such Materials and our product(s) are not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. We are not responsible for any health problems that may result for your use of our product(s) and Materials. Use of our Site and Materials does not establish a doctor-patient relationship. The Materials, our Site and our product(s) should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and/or treatment. Any health information in our Site or Materials is provided for your convenience only. The Site and Materials are intended for general information purposes only and do not take into account your own personal circumstances. They are not intended to be advice, they are not intended to be relied upon and they are not a substitute for professional medical advice based on your personal circumstances. You are solely responsible for determining the suitability of our product(s). Your reliance on any Materials or other information that is provided to you through our Site or with our product(s) is at your own risk. We accept no liability for any result, direct or indirect, of you using the product. If any symptoms or side effects occur you should stop using the product immediately and consult your doctor or medical professional. View full Terms and Conditions here.