THE state government has introduced laws that will ban protesters from harassing women near abortion clinics, although Member for Hawkesbury Dominic Perrottet did not support the bill.
The new laws establish a 150-metre ‘safe access zone’ around abortion clinics, with jail time a potential punishment for people found harassing women within the zones.
There was a lengthy debate in the Lower House of the New South Wales Parliament on Thursday night, after the laws had already passed the Upper House.
Mr Perrottet spoke against the bill, arguing that the bill prevented the free speech of protesters.
“This bill has nothing to do with principle and everything to do with the abuse of power,” he said.
“Let us make no mistake: It is those who preach endlessly about inclusion that today are creating zones of exclusion.
“[Protesters] are of the view that unborn human life deserves protection, an offer of help and of hope. For having that different point of view, under this bill they will be thrown into prison.
“[This bill is] a crude attempt to sanitise our public places, to silence those who refuse to turn a blind eye to the value of both mother and child, and to remove from our public spaces any trace of the witness who is a daily reminder of the dignity of every human life.”
Member for Riverstone Kevin Conolly, who is also a Liberal, voted alongside Mr Perrottet in opposing the bill.
Member for Londonderry Prue Car, Labor, voted for the bill to proceed.
Mr Conolly argued the bill was about more than simply installing ‘safe access zones’.
“We have heard many speakers during the debate tonight say that this is not a debate about abortion,” he said.
“The inclusion of this object in the bill makes it so. It is a statement asserting an entitlement to abortion. If members were genuine about what they said earlier—that it is not a debate about abortion—they should not include that objective in the bill.”
However, Ms Car said the intention of the bill was to protect women accessing a service.
“This bill is about women going to a reproductive health clinic by themselves or with their partners, their husbands, or their wives now, thank God, and having to run the gauntlet, being told they are murderers by people who might be well meaning but are not qualified to call themselves counsellors,” she said.
“The bill is simply about ending the restriction on a woman's fundamental right to access a service. The bill is not about abortion.”
The vote was won 62-18.