Building on decades of work by pro-choice organisations, in September 2019 Penny Sharpe, MLC introduced the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 into the NSW Legislative Council successfully overturning the bill criminalising abortion. The bill was co-sponsored by EMILY's List MPs Trish Doyle, Jo Haylen and Jenny Aitchison with the leadership of Jodi Mckay.
“Making change is hard, but it is worth every frustration. To know that we have made the lives of women, girls and other pregnant people that little bit easier – against the wishes of those who seek to control our bodies – is very satisfying.” - The Hon. Penny Sharpe, MLC
The 119 year old laws had to change for two very simple reasons. Criminalisation limits access and access to reproductive health care is a basic human right.
Ms Sharpe, and an unprecedented coalition of 15 parliamentary co–sponsors, worked with pro-choice organisations to bring the bill before the NSW Parliament.
Penny recounted the sometimes bruising journey to this victory in her presentation to the annual Pat Giles Lunch hosted by EMILY’s List WA. “There was resistance within the parliament and a great lack of awareness within the community about the legal status of abortion” she told the attentive audience. “The campaign was hard. It brought out the worst in people. It also brought out the best.”
Abortion has now been removed from the NSW crimes act. Changing the law has opened the door to safe, legal, accessible abortion. The fight is not over however, we must keep campaigning to ensure accessibility for women no matter where they live and what their circumstance.
While there were many lessons in winning this change, having numbers in parliament was key to its success. It took having more Labor women elected to make reproductive justice a priority for the party.
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Want to read Penny Sharpe’s full speech? Download the transcript.