Exclusion zones around abortion clinics are one step closer to becoming law after the New South Wales Upper House passed a bill last night. Source: Sydney Morning Herald.
In a debate that spanned the course of the day, and drew impassioned speeches on the right to privacy and dignity, as well as staunch opposition in defence of free speech, the bill ultimately passed with clear majority support.
The bill will now go to the Legislative Assembly for debate in early June.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who has granted her MPs a conscience vote on the issue, has said she will “likely” support the bill, despite describing it as “flawed”.
National MLC Trevor Khan, who rankled some of his Coalition colleagues by joining forces with Labor on the issue, implored Coalition MPs to “pass it unamended”.
“It's about respecting the safety, decency, and privacy of women who attend reproductive health clinics,” he said.
The bill, which would amend the Public Health Act, proposes establishing 150-metre “safe access zones” around abortion clinics.
Inside the zone it will be illegal to obstruct or interfere with a person accessing or leaving a clinic; to communicate “in relation to abortions” in a manner that could cause “distress or anxiety” to a person accessing or leaving a clinic, and to record and distribute visual data of a person without their consent. Penalties include up to six months jail for a first offence, and 12 months for a subsequent offence.
The NSW bill is very similar to Victorian legislation now the subject of a High Court challenge that will test the constitutional validity of the “communication offence” against the implied freedom of political communication.
Liberal MLC Taylor Martin, who opposed the bill, said outlawing discussions on abortion inside the zone could prevent family members from engaging “in a last-minute conversation about what is about to take place”.
Scott Farlow, a Liberal MLC, also condemned the communication provision, describing it as “an unnecessary and egregious limitation on both freedom of speech and freedom of religion”.
NSW Upper House passes abortion exclusion zones bill (Sydney Morning Herald)
NSW abortion zone laws pass first hurdle (News.com.au)