Proposed amendments to reproductive health bill must be rejected
Amendments being floated to the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill – which would make it harder for women to access reproductive care that already exists – would “drastically undermine” healthcare outcomes for women, according to the Human Rights Law Centre.
HRLC Sydney legal director Edwina MacDonald said that a proposal to remove patient autonomy from 20 weeks would be “damaging and add to the distress of women confronted with fatal fetal abnormalities” that can only be confirmed at 20-22 weeks.
“I have supported friends who have only learnt about the nature and severity of fatal foetal conditions following a routine ultrasound at 18-20 weeks. They have had to make complex and distressing decisions and pressuring them to do this by 20 weeks would be damaging and destructive,” she posited.
“It is absolutely critical that women have time to understand their options and to discuss them with medical professionals, support services, and family. Parliament must listen to the medical experts who support the gestation period in the bill of 22 weeks.”
She added that proposals that restrict where abortions can happen and that would delay access to abortion care until after a hospital committee has considered a woman’s situation are “extremely misguided and dangerous”.
“These amendments seek to frustrate the process and make it harder than it already is for women to access essential reproductive healthcare. All abortions after 22 weeks are managed by hospitals in NSW, where specialists are present to address the complexity of each individual’s situation,” she argued.
“The Bill would decriminalise abortion in NSW and respect a person’s right to control their body up to 22 weeks pregnancy. Few abortions happen after 22 weeks and are typically needed for women in distressing and complex situations. After 22 weeks, under the bill, abortions would only available when two doctors consider the abortion appropriate in all the circumstances.”
Ms MacDonald commended the cross-party and evidence-based approach to the Bill and said that “now was the time to change these outdated laws”.
“New South Wales’ existing abortion laws are discriminatory and outdated and it is beyond time for them to change,” she concluded.
“This Bill presents a strong model that is consistent with the best medical practice and endorsed by the leading medical and legal experts. It is consistent with the current laws in Victoria and Queensland, and the detailed law reform commission inquiries in those states. It does not need amendments and should be passed without delay.”
The comments follow the argument from Susan Wnukowska-Mtonga and Hannah Lawson that every MP should vote for this bill, as well as the Australian Lawyers’ Alliance’s support for its passage.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Since this story was filed, the Bill in question passed the NSW Lower House, and is now before the Upper House.