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Speech: Abortion Law Reform

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 11 Sep 2019

I rise to speak on a matter very close to my heart. New South Wales is currently having a really important debate on abortion law reform—reform that has the overwhelming support of the community. The upper house of the New South Wales parliament will vote on the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill next week, after this bill passed the lower house in August. It is now inevitable that New South Wales' archaic abortion laws will go into the dustbin of history where they well and truly belong. I want to congratulate all the activists and advocates for women's rights now and throughout history who have made this moment possible. I particularly want to acknowledge the Pro-Choice Alliance and the work of Greens MPs Jenny Leong and Abigail Boyd, and I thank the cross-party working group, including Alex Greenwich MP, which has brought forward this bill to decriminalise abortion.

It's been just over two years since my bill to fully decriminalise abortion was not supported in the upper house of the New South Wales parliament when I was a member of that place. I can still vividly recall the anger and disbelief of those present in the public gallery. Women's rights activists of all generations were overcome with emotion. They were outraged that, in the 21st century, politicians would vote to deny them their reproductive rights. The outcome was disappointing, but I knew that moment was not the end of our campaign. The debate on my bill was an essential milestone in putting this long-neglected issue squarely on the public and political agenda. The century-long parliamentary silence was well and truly broken.

The introduction of a cross-party bill to decriminalise abortion has only reinforced my belief that strong community campaigns have the power to shift the political agenda. When I introduced my bill, I was told, 'It's not the right time for abortion law reform.' Other reproductive rights campaigners before me had been told the same thing over and over again for decades. But we know the issue of body autonomy for women and all people accessing abortions has been pushed to the back of the political debate for far too long. There comes a time when enough is enough and the naysayers and the forces of patriarchy can no longer hold back momentum for reform. I'm so glad that that time has come for New South Wales. But the debate and conduct of the anti-choice politicians and groups has been predictably disgraceful, with reheated versions of the same old baseless scare campaigns that have been used time after time to try and deny us our bodily rights. This has never, and will never, deter people from coming out in droves to support women's rights to choose our right to our bodies and our right to make decisions.

I'm proud to see this renewed push for decriminalising abortion. I hope with all my heart that the people of New South Wales finally get their reproductive rights. Once the bill has been passed, we must quickly move to address issues of limited abortion access for women, especially in rural and regional areas and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, migrant women and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Access to reproductive health should not be a geographical, racial or class lottery. All public hospitals should offer pregnancy termination services through bulk-billing so that no-one is left out of pocket.

Women's rights have always been hard fought for. Together, we have transformed the movement for reproductive rights into a political inevitability. To my former colleagues in the New South Wales upper house, I say, 'Let's get this bill passed and prove that human rights aren't matters of political expediency.' To the people of New South Wales who share our passion and are restless to see this done, now is the time to act. We've rallied together to demand change before, and now I ask that you come and march with us in Sydney this Saturday, 14 September for women's right to choose. I'm proud to say that every single Greens member of the New South Wales parliament will be voting pro-choice. I wish the same could be said of all the other parties. I urge you to contact MPs and ask them to trust women, support the bill and vote pro-choice.

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