"We should be proud of what have achieved together ... you have contributed to putting a stop to the harassment of women in NSW, and their family, friends and partners, as well as the wonderful staff who work at reproductive health clinics every day," Penny Sharpe MLC said.
PHOTO: Penny Sharpe MLC with Adrianne Walters, Senior Lawyer with the Human Rights
Law Centre, members of WAAC and members of the NSW Feminist Collective, at the
NSW Parliament House for the launch of the Safe Access Zones Bill on 2nd May, 2018.
In the early hours of the morning of Friday, 8th June, 2018, after a debate in the NSW Parliament that lasted all day and night, the Lower House passed the Safe Access Zones Bill by 61 votes to 18.
Each of 18 amendments were voted down, and - in a terrific victory for the women of NSW, the bill was passed in its entirety.
Penny Sharpe MLC, who worked tirelessly to ensure the Bill came to Parliament with solid cross party support, thanked supporters: "I want to thank you for your support, your hard work, and your perseverance in this cause. Reforms such as this are not easy nor are they quick, and by standing strong together we made it happen."
She also thanked her Labor colleagues, and thanked and acknowledged her Nationals colleague in the Upper House, Trevor Khan MLC, who co-sponsored the bill with me, and Nationals MP Leslie Williams, who led the bill through the Lower House. "We could not have done this without their bipartisan support and strength, in often trying circumstances," she said.
Penny Sharpe MLC also thanked a number of organisations who supported the Bill: "We also had great help from Fair Agenda, Women's Electoral Lobby, Women's Abortion Action Campaign, Human Rights Law Centre, a number of brave staff members from clinics, and many fantastic women and campaigners from Albury - plus a host of others."
Ms Sharpe said the Bill will now be briefly reported back to the Upper House for concurrence, and then presented to the Governor of NSW for formal assent in order for the Act to commence.
"The laws will not begin immediately - there will first be a period of transition in which practicalities will need to be worked through by the Minister for Health and Minister for Police," Ms Sharpe said. "However, given this process has occurred previously in Victoria, we are optimistic that this should not be delayed too long. I will keep you updated on when we can expect the laws to come into force."
SAFE ACCESS ZONES BILL PASSES THE NSW PARLIAMENT 61-18
What the Safe Access Zones Bill means for NSW women
The Bill, brought by MLCs Penny Sharp and Trevor Khan (NSW Nationals) will establish a 150 metre 'exclusion zone' around clinics where abortions are performed, to prevent so-called 'sidewalk counsellors' harassing women entering and leaving the clinics.
The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill, will create offences within 150 metres of a reproductive health clinic and will see fines or up to 12 months gaol for those who:
- Interfere with people trying to enter or exit a reproductive health clinic including harassing, intimidating, hindering, obstructing or impeding the access of individuals;
- Cause distress or anxiety to people within the zone by calling out or communicating with people trying to enter or exit the clinic;
- Take or distribute photos, videos or recordings of people without their consent within the zone.
Because none of the 18 amendments proposed for the Bill was accepted by the Parliament, it will now pass exactly as proposed by Penny Sharpe MLC and Trevor Khan MLC.
IT'S TIME TO HELP SAFE ACCESS ZONES GET THROUGH!
This will be an important week for women's rights in NSW: the right to medical privacy, and to be free from street harassment when entering or leaving a women's health clinic where abortion is provided.
The NSW Legislative Council has passed The Public Health Amendment (Safe Access to Reproductive Health Clinics) Bill, and sent it for debate to the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, 7th June, 2018.
The Bill has achieved widespread support from the ALP, the Greens, and members of the National Party.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has allowed a 'free' vote for Liberal Party members, and has indicated she will support the Bill!
However, some MPs will waver, and they need to know the people of NSW support this Bill and want them to vote to keep women safe and free from harassment and intimidation when visiting a reproductive health clinic.
That's why YOUR support is needed!
Read the message from Penny Sharpe MLC below, to find out how your support will be most useful!
It is crunch time for safe access zones in NSW. Now is the time to help us get this through!
The bill will be debated in the NSW Legislative Assembly this Thursday 7 June.
Here is what we need you to do:
1) Send an email to your MP to tell them that women in NSW need safe access zones. Fair Agenda have made it easy, click here.
If you have sent one before we need you to do it again as these emails are now going to your local members. Various anti-choice groups are flooding MPs' inboxes urging MPs to vote against the bill. We need to show how much support there is from women and men across NSW for this simple but important change to the law.
2) Share the Facebook page and ask your friends and family to like the page - we will be updating you through this page over the next week. It is the best place to find out what is going on. We will also be sharing the best (and worst) of the debate on Thursday.
3) If you are in Sydney on Thursday, please come along to the rally out the front of Parliament from 8.30am - 9.15am. You can then stay around to watch it all unfold. If you can come, RSVP here. Last week we had over 100 supporters out the front, loud, proud and with the best signs! The anti-choice folks had about 30. Come along and join us out the front.
Since the Legislative Council passed this bill, we have had more good news: NSW is defending Victoria's safe access zones bill in the High Court - NSW has recognised that this change to the law is not about free speech, it is about medical privacy and dignity. You can read all about it here.
Thanks to every one of you who have signed our open letter, signed a petition, stood at rallies, called your MP and worked so hard to give women in NSW the ability to get reproductive medical treatment, free from the interference of others.
I hope to see you on Thursday for what I hope will be a very exciting day. In the meantime, send that email to your MP now!
Authorised by The Hon. Penny Sharpe, MLC.
© Penny Sharpe MLC, 2018.
Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney NSW 2000