Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill (RHCR Bill) 2019
As an Association we strongly affirm the importance of supporting women who find themselves in difficult situations created by their pregnancy, or whose unborn babies face difficulties surviving post birth, and the complexity and sensitivity of this issue for these women. We also strongly affirm that the lives of the unborn should be treated with the utmost care, as they are among the most vulnerable members of our society. Sadly, we believe the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill (RHCR Bill) 2019 does neither of these things.
The RHCR Bill does not adequately address the need for high quality and readily available forms of support for those considering terminations to be able to consider their options and the consequences that flow from them. It affords women facing difficult decisions little protection from the coercion of others and provides limited safeguards to ensure they receive unbiased advice and support that would enable them to give properly informed consent.
Further, the RHCR Bill manifestly fails to protect the unborn. It allows for abortion well into the second trimester, around 5 months, for no other reason than the mother wants her pregnancy to end. The doctor performing this operation does not even have to ask for a reason. In addition, the RHCR Bill allows for late term abortions – so late, in fact that the termination of a pregnancy right up to birth would be legalised. It is disingenuous to claim that this provision is rarely used. It should never have been drafted as a possibility in the first place. Provision for emergency procedures are already captured in Clause 6(4).
In allowing for abortion up to the time of birth, all that the two doctors need to consider is ‘that, in all the circumstances, the termination should be performed’, on the basis of the undefined ‘relevant medical circumstances’ and the ‘person’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances’. This guideline is so vague and broad that in effect there would be very few circumstances that would not be caught by it.
There is no urgency for this RHCR Bill. Abortion is currently lawful in NSW, following the Levine ruling of the District Court in 1971, which has been judicially affirmed in NSW on a number of occasions. Yet this RHCR Bill does much more than merely codify the current practice (as some have claimed). It goes much further, significantly changing the framework of how we approach this complex issue in a way that is both unwise and unjust, and with very inadequate process and opportunity for public discussion.
In light of these concerns, we do not support the RHCR Bill.
NSW & ACT Baptist churches and pastors received information regarding the Bill and its introduction to parliament in an email from our Director of Ministries, Steve Bartlett, on 1 August. We wrote to the Premier and also made a submission to the upper house enquiry on this issue. We continue to encourage people to contact their local MPs and now upper house members and make their voices heard on this matter.