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Australian lawmakers vote to decriminalize abortion in Sydney

By
Darryl Coote
New South Wales politicians celebrate with supporters after the passing of a bill the decriminalized abortion in the state. Photo by DeanLewins/EPA-EFE
New South Wales politicians celebrate with supporters after the passing of a bill the decriminalized abortion in the state. Photo by DeanLewins/EPA-EFE

Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Australia's New South Wales parliament decriminalized abortion Thursday, overturning a 119-year-old law that criminalized the medical procedure.

The bill passed 26-14 in favor of overturning the controversial law in NSW, which includes Sydney, to make abortions available to people up to 22 weeks pregnant and after that in emergency situations to save either the mother's or the fetus' life.

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Over 122 amendments were considered over 30 hours of debate with a brief discussion on the third reading before it was passed with 25 amendments.

Abortion was previously listed under the Crimes Act and if convicted, one could face 10 years in jail.

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With the bills passing, abortion is now legal throughout the country except for South Australia.

Penny Sharp, Labor member of parliament and co-sponsor of the bill, said it was "a massive step forward for women."

"And it is done," Penny Sharp, deputy opposition leader of the NSW Legislative Council, said on Twitter. "Abortion is out of the Crimes Act. There is a safe, legal health framework in place."

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Fair Agenda, an Australian non-profit organization campaigning for women's right, called the bill's passing "historic."

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"Today's historic change is a testament to the advocacy and leadership of pro-choice advocates who have championed more compassionate laws, many of them for decades," Fair Agenda Executive Director Renee Carr said in a statement. "... A woman knows what is right for her body, her family and her future. The New South Wales Parliament has recognized that."

However, not all agree with the bill as 10 members of the Legislative Council from the Upper House have signed a petition against the law in a last-ditch effort to have it blocked, claiming it "will fail to adequately protect the rights of an unborn child" as well as having been fast-tracked through parliament.

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Despite the petition expected to have little effect, Cree said she was "disappointed" that they would attempt to hold the healthcare reform law "hostage."

Now, she said, it is time for South Australia, where the healthcare laws "are out of touch and out of date," to follow suit.

"We need a system that ensures women can access abortion care when they need it and where they need it," she said. "Not one that causes unnecessary delays to patients seeking a time-sensitive procedure."

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