Abortion legalised after parliament passes historic bill

Abortion will finally be decriminalised in NSW after a historic bill passed the Legislative Assembly with a raft of amendments to placate conservative MPs.

Tanya Davies and Kevin Conolly had threatened to defect to the crossbench over key abortion amendments but will now remain in the party after being granted all four concessions they were demanding.

These are on sex-selection, conscientious objection, saving babies born alive in failed terminations and restricting late-term abortion after 22-weeks.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich’s abortion bill has passed the NSW lower house. Picture: AAP
Independent MP Alex Greenwich’s abortion bill has passed the NSW lower house. Picture: AAP

A defection would have cost Premier Gladys Berejiklian her two-seat majority and plunged her into minority government.

The Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 was passed on the voices this morning with no division required in an extraordinary turnaround for Ms Berejiklian whose leadership was criticised over the handling of the bill.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who moved the bill, said there had been a total 72 hours of negotiations between both houses.

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Nine amendments were passed in total after Mr Greenwich encouraged MPs to support changes made in the upper house.

"The bill is now in a state that represents the wants and needs of the majority of this parliament," he said.

Ms Davies commended colleagues for helping move the bill "to a better place".

"I honestly believe the contents of the amendments actually creates more safeguards for women, for doctors and for babies born alive," she said.

"Could it have actually been better? We don't know. The process this bill went through was not as it should have but it is what it is and we are at a better place."

The legislation will excise abortion from the state's 119-year-old criminal code and create a stand-alone healthcare act to regulate the procedure.

Rebel Liberal MP Tanya Davies says the bill is now in a ‘better place’. Picture: AAP
Rebel Liberal MP Tanya Davies says the bill is now in a ‘better place’. Picture: AAP

It allows women to request an abortion up to 22-weeks gestation from a registered medical practitioner.

Beyond that, women can still get an abortion if they have the consent of two doctors who agree it is needed to prevent serious danger to their life, physical or mental health.

The late-term abortion arrangement - which is in line with existing common law - was reached after a dramatic "compromise" was struck at the eleventh yesterday to prevent Ms Davies and Mr Conolly from defecting.

The bill passed the Legislative Council 26-14 last night after almost 40 hours of discussion over amendments, making it the third longest in the history of the upper house.

NSW is the last state in Australia to decriminalise abortion.

Liberal MP Kevin Conolly has also been a vocal opponent of the bill. Picture: AAP
Liberal MP Kevin Conolly has also been a vocal opponent of the bill. Picture: AAP