Lismore MP Janelle Saffin, Ballina MP Tamara Smith and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis.
Lismore MP Janelle Saffin, Ballina MP Tamara Smith and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis. Contributed

How our MPs plan to vote on the abortion bill

AS THE NSW government gets ready to debate a controversial bill to decriminalise abortion, the majority of politicians representing the Northern Rivers are in support of the Reproductive Healthcare Reform Bill.

The bill, which looks to allow terminations after 22 weeks with the consent of two doctors, has raised critical debate across the state over whether the 119-year-old legislation should be changed.

Many religious and pro-life campaigners have shared strong views about why it's important to stop abortions from being performed, while others in favour of decriminialising abortion have petitioned hard for change.

But here on the Northern Rivers, the members of the three electorates representing the community have shared their views ahead of the debate.

Lismore MP Janelle Saffin, who had advocated for the issue in the NSW Parliament in 1997, 2001 and now in 2019, said it was time for action.

"As the Health Minister says, it's a medical issue and it's a matter for a woman, her partner and her doctor," Ms Saffin said.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith echoed Ms Saffin's statements, agreeing that abortion needed to be decriminalised.

"The NSW Greens are 100 per cent pro-choice and I am pleased to be joining with pro-choice MPs from across the political spectrum to co-sponsor the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019," Ms Smith said.

"I believe that it is woman's right to choose and have access to the reproductive healthcare they want."

Meanwhile, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said he was still considering the Bill and was not in a position to comment on his voting intentions at this point in time.

"It's a very sensitive debate and there are merits on both sides," Mr Gulaptis said.

He added that he'll follow the debate very closely before he makes up his mind on his voting intentions.

As the state waits for an answer, Lismore Women Health and Resource Centre manager Mary Willis said the organisation was hopeful the bill would be successful.

"We would support the decriminalisation to bring the legislation in line with the rest of Australia around women's reproductive rights and sexual health," Ms Willis said.

"Pregnancy information and support which sometimes leads to termination."

The nearest centre for a surgical procedure is Tweed Heads and in some cases women have to go as afar as Brisbane depending on the complexity of the procedure.

"There are some GPs in Northern Rivers who might assist for non-surgical abortion," Ms Willis said.

"At the moment there are many reason why women do not come forward with their experiences as they might not want family and friends to be involved in their decision and consider it private.

"The reasons many women choose to seek a termination are complex.

"This might include the fact that ending a pregnancy is still embedded in the constitution as a criminal act and they do not want their decision known.

"In that context could be shame and stigma attached when it has been their choice not to go to full term with their pregnancy as opposed to the decision being based on a medical complication."

MPs were met this morning outside of parliament by hundreds of pro-choice and pro-life groups, with daily protests planned while the bill is debated.

If it passes the lower house, the bill will be referred to the upper house's social issues committee for an inquiry to be held as early as next week, with a report by next Friday.

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