Labor MPs support new calls to legalise abortion

Labor MPs support new calls to legalise abortion

AT LEAST three Labor MPs are supporting a new push to change the state’s 40-year-old abortion laws.

Angela D’Amore, Helen Westwood and Penny Sharpe have supported calls by a new lobby group to remove abortion from the criminal code.

The group, Pro Choice NSW, was set up after criminal charges were laid against a couple in Queensland who had used RU486, also known as the abortion pill.


Despite the push by the Labor MPs, who are working with Pro Choice NSW, the Premier, Nathan Rees, said he had no plans to follow Victoria in decriminalising abortion.

A Liberal MP, Pru Goward, has also had discussions with Pro Choice NSW, a fact that was expected to enrage members of the party’s religious right, David Clarke and Greg Smith.

In Victoria and the ACT, a woman may have an abortion within the first 24 weeks of gestation for any reason. But in NSW abortion is illegal unless it would prevent serious danger to a woman’s health.

The campaign by Pro Choice NSW follows efforts by a similar group in Victoria that resulted in the removal of abortion from the Victorian criminal code.

A spokeswoman for Pro Choice NSW, Jane Caro, said the group was formed after a Cairns couple was charged with criminal offences for using RU486.

Tegan Simone Leach, 19, faces seven years in jail if she is convicted.

This week it emerged that legislation to overhaul abortion laws in Queensland was drafted in 2003 but the bill was blocked by the former premier Peter Beattie and his deputy, Anna Bligh, who is now Premier.

”Our focus is simple and that is to have abortion removed from the criminal code in NSW,” Ms Caro said.

Ms Sharpe, an upper house MP, said she supported the actions of the Victorian and ACT governments. ”I’d like to see abortion removed from the Crimes Act but I do understand it is something that would require some support from all parties.”

A spokesman for the Attorney-General, John Hatzistergos, said: “In NSW, the common law provides for legal abortion under certain circumstances and adequately protects women and health professionals.

”The current legal position on abortion has been in place for almost 40 years.”

The Greens MP Lee Rhiannon is also working with Pro Choice NSW and said the state was fast becoming the most conservative state in the country.

”Following the news from Queensland, Premier Rees should give the NSW Law Reform Commission a reference to modernise our outdated laws, taking the lead from Victoria and the ACT, which now regulate abortion through public health laws.”

www.smh.com.au

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