MSA cautions NSW parliament against proposed laws that could restrict abortion access

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MSI Australia is calling on NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to stand by a commitment made during his first week in the top job to avoid any changes to abortion related laws.

Last week the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Loss of Foetus) Bill 2021 was brought to the NSW Legislative Assembly. It is a reiteration of a previous Bill tabled in 2020 called Crimes Legislation (Offences Against Pregnant Women) Bill 2020.

The rehashed Bill specifies personhood to a fetus of at least 20 weeks pregnancy gestation, or a tissue mass of 400 grams or above.

Jamal Hakim, Managing Director of MSI Australia said the Bill would set a dangerous legal precedent as it contradicts the UN Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.

“We have seen Premier Perrottet exercise his position of power to delay a coronavirus bill from proceeding this week,” he said.

“Premier Perrottet needs to take action and stand by his commitment to maintaining abortion access by stopping this dangerous bill from moving forward.

“This Bill may not propose direct amendments to the Abortion Law Reform Act, but it would set a dangerous legal precedent by contradicting international human rights.

"The Bill proposes changes to the criminal code and assigns personhood to a fetus.

“International human rights law is clear - legal personhood is assigned at birth.

“The life of a woman or pregnant person can be put at risk if a person or medical professional is not required to prioritise them.

“In the tragic situation that a a woman or pregnant person dies, whether as the result of violence or in a motor vehicle accident, this is murder or manslaughter.

“It is harm and injury to the woman or pregnant person, which can be devastating for individuals, families and communities.

“Murder or manslaughter that causes the loss of a fetus can already be prosecuted under existing laws in NSW.

“NSW parliamentarians needs to respect that everyone has different beliefs, and uses different terminology when it comes to pregnancy.

“Women and pregnant people should be able to self-determine language to describe their own bodies, their own pregnancies, and their own experiences of pregnancy loss."

The existing Crimes Act definition of Grievous Bodily Harm already refers to ‘the destruction (other than in the course of a medical procedure or a termination of a pregnancy in accordance with the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 ) of the foetus of a pregnant woman, whether or not the woman suffers any other harm’.

The existing definition of Grievous Bodily Harm does not have, nor need, a gestational or tissue weight requirement to define a fetus.

MSI Australia supports Women’s Legal Service NSW and their work in relation to this Bill.

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For further information contact Anna Jabour, MSI Australia, 0428 396 391.

MSI Australia is a national not for profit provider of sexual and reproductive health services including permanent and long-acting reversible contraception and abortion care. For more information on our clinic network visit mariestopes.org.au.