Decriminalisation of abortion in NSW: an analysis of the draft law

NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi recently released her draft of legislation which would decriminalise abortion and instead criminalise objection to abortion in NSW.

The text of the proposed law is somewhat extraordinary.  It is only brief, so we will take a look at each of the sections.

Decriminalisation of abortion

In just 66 words, the proposed legislation removes any reference to abortion from the criminal law.  In doing so, it makes abortion, up and until the moment of birth, completely legal in NSW.

Removal of conscientious objection

The next section requires a health practitioner to inform a person seeking an abortion, advice about an abortion or about the full range of options regarding pregnancy to disclose a conscientious objection to abortion before giving advice on abortion or other options, and to refer a person to another health practitioner who does not hold such an objection.  Failure to do so will be unsatisfactory professional conduct, leaving a medical professional liable to fines, having restrictions placed on their practice or even deregistration.

This section is dangerous for a number of reasons.

First, it removes the right of conscience, which is a basic human right in favour of abortion, which is not a human right. 

Second, the only requirement in the legislation for a person to be given information about “the full range of options regarding pregnancy” is that a person is given information about abortion.  “The full range of options” does not include a requirement to provide information about adoption, nor does the require to refer to another party require a referral to groups who might provide financial and other support a woman who wants to keep her baby.  In the name of providing “the full range of options,” the legislation favours just one option – abortion.

Third, the requirement is that a medical practitioner who has a conscientious objection to abortion must advise the patient of their objection before giving any advice.  It would have the effect of saying that the only people who can give women pregnancy advice are those who have no problem with abortion. 

Creation of exclusion zones

The other thing the law would do is impose “exclusion zones” for 150 metres around abortion clinics.  It would be a criminal offence, with a penalty of $16,500 or 6 months’ imprisonment, to “bother” a person accessing or leaving a place where abortions are provided.  The law even specifically states that it is an “unreasonable intrusion” to question the decision of someone seeking an abortion.  Even asking a question is unreasonable under this legislation!

A direct quotation from the proposed legislation is:

A person who is in an exclusion zone must not communicate disapproval of abortion by any means in a manner that is able to be seen or heard by a person accessing, leaving, attempting to access or leave, or inside, premises at which abortions are provided, and is reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety to such person.

Let that sink in for a moment.  Disapproving of abortion with 150 metres of an abortion can land you in prison for 6 months.  It is the Thought Police drunk with power.

Prohibition of photographing or filming

Finally, there is a lengthy section which prohibits capturing an image of a person accessing or leaving an abortion clinic. 

This is a completely reasonable prohibition, and it is not the practice of those keeping prayerful vigil to film people accessing abortion clinics.  However, it is the practice of those who are pro-abortion to take photographs of people praying outside clinics and publishing them online.

A group calling itself Right to Privacy Albury frequently takes photographs of people praying outside clinics, and where known, publish their name and workplace.

There is no protection against this in the legislation.  Only those who are seeking abortion are deemed worthy of having their privacy protected.

Concluding thoughts

This law, like all the others before it, seek to criminalise opinion, not action.  There are already laws which prohibit bad behaviour, and which regulate protests.  Having specific laws for abortion clinics is an attempt to punish people for opposing it.

Readers in NSW should stay tuned to Catholic Talk.  We will let you know how to have your voice heard.

Monica Doumit, Catholic Talk contributor

 

Thursday, 19 May 2016 10:00 Written by 
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in CathTalk blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of all members of that of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.

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