Pro-life politicians from the Liberals and Labor in New South Wales no doubt spent the weekend huddling over proposed amendments to independent Alex Greenwich’s extreme abortion bill.
Speccie readers will recall how we broke the story last week, revealing the extent of the bill’s provisions. Greenwich and his bandwagon of co-sponsors (a vanity role, rather than one recognised at law or in the standing orders) say it’s all about removing abortion from the Crimes Act, but it does far more than that, allowing abortion until moments before birth for reasons that the Health Minister tried and awkwardly failed last week to explain, such as the mothers future social circumstances.
It also requires doctors who object on conscience grounds to nevertheless refer a woman who wants an abortion to a doctor who will perform the gruesome procedure. While MPs are allowed to act according to conscience, rather than along party lines, the same protection is not extended to medical practitioners. And this from the mob who say that abortion should be between a woman and her doctor!
While ostensibly a private member’s bill, Greenwich’s proposed legislation really is government business. Most of its co-sponsors are government MPs, and its chief cheerleaders are none other than Premier Gladys Berejiklian whose basket case government is in chaos, and incompetent Transport Minister and Leader of the House Andrew Constance. We reported last week that it was in fact Constance who spent the weekend ringing around whipping votes in the hope of pushing it through the Legislative Assembly in record time.
The Liberal Party Room stopped all that, with third term MPs reporting that in more than eight years they’d never experienced a meeting quite like this. Presumably, as the debate intensified, everything went quiet for Gladys while she contemplated her own political mortality, and whether her fulsome support was really all that politically expedient.
The delay insisted on by the Party Room has done two things. Firstly, it’s shown Constance to be as hopeless at counting votes as he is at managing transport. Remember, of course, that going into the meeting he thought he had the numbers to suspend standing orders, and pass the bill, and do so with no amendments. Secondly, it’s given time for constituents – tens of thousands of them – to contact their MPs and let them know that this bill is extreme, dangerous, and unwanted. The Premier isn’t the only one who’s been considering political mortality.
But there’s a way she could still come out of this well. Those pro-life MPs are also doing the numbers and, being better at counting than Andrew Constance (a low bar, admittedly), probably realise that the bill is likely going to pass. But they are determined to put forward some sensible, reasonable amendments, especially around late-term abortions and conscientious objection. Gladys’s support would likely get these over the line, whilst simultaneously avoiding her own Greyhounds moment, keeping the government together, and allowing her to tout her faux-feminist credentials as she votes the bill into law.
Pro-lifers think these amendments will save babies and protect doctors, but Liberal moderates would do well to realise they might save Gladys and the government as well.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
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