The overturning of Roe vs. Wade in America has made international news and caused international outrage.
In Australia, safe abortion is available in every state with differing circumstances and accessibility, but regardless, it is legal with a doctor’s signature.
It is a right that has been long fought for and must be protected.
However, in 2019 the then-Treasurer of the New South Wales Liberal Party, Dominic Perrottet, opposed the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 which would make two important changes to abortion in NSW.
- Remove abortion from the Crimes Act 1900.
- Allow for abortions up to 22 weeks. After 22 weeks it would require the signature of two doctors.
As current Premier of NSW Dominic Perrottet, and father of six daughters, he has publicly opposed and voted against the bill to decriminalise abortion.
He posted to Facebook on August 4, 2019, that:
‘As a Liberal, I believe the right to freedom is fundamental — but our right to life is paramount, because it is the foundation on which our other rights rest.’
Attached to this was an article published by the Daily Telegraph on August 3, 2019, headlined as I Can’t Stop a Beating Heart.
The article listed where the members of the NSW Liberal and National Coalition stood in relation to the bill, with Health Minister Brad Hazzard and then-Premier Gladys Berejiklian voting in favour.
Within the article, the proudly Catholic Perrottet’s opinions were made clear, with him being concerned that doctors who harboured conscientious objections to abortion wouldn’t be able to deny it outright, but would have to refer a woman to another medical practitioner.
He claimed this does not align with the conscience vote allowed on the bill as the doctors do not have the freedom of conscience to refuse this service completely, and fought so these doctors would not have to refer the patient to another practitioner.
While the bill was passed as the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019, with Perrottet voting against it, his opposition has long been forgotten. Now, it’s been brought back into the public interest with the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. Pro-choice rallies in support of women in America are expected to continue taking place across the country in the following weeks, including in NSW.
Dominic Perrottet has been silent on the matter of Roe vs. Wade, instead focusing on infrastructure and State of Origin on his social media, paying special note to the Women’s Championships which feels like a cheap shot at allegiance in the current political environment. While he has shown his willingness to work with the state and federal Labor governments, his conservative views are certainly not aligned with those of mainstream Australia, and even his own party as newly elected Liberal Deputy Susan Ley described the overturn as ‘a step backwards for women’.
Perrottet has previously come under fire by women’s groups asking him to put aside his religious views when dealing with the matter of abortion, with the ABC reporting in October of last year, after he came to the role of Premier, that women’s groups will be critical of his leadership to ensure the right to safe abortion did not go backwards as it has now done in the United States.
Meanwhile, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, with whom Perrottet is working with to transform early childhood education, released quite a different statement via Facebook on April 11, 2019, in regards to anti-abortion ‘activists’ harassing women attending abortion clinics.
‘I believe the termination of a pregnancy is a matter between a woman and her doctor. What’s more, it’s the law in this state. Not everyone shares my view, and that’s their right. But no one has the right to harass women accessing legal healthcare. That’s not ‘activism’. It’s a disgrace.’
The Liberal Party, both state and federal, came under heavy fire last year with scandals of sexual harassment and assault within parliament rocking Australia, which erupted into the nationwide March 4 Justice campaign in which many key members of the Liberal Party failed to show their support, Perrottet included. While the former treasurer did oversee a 2021 budget increase to support women fleeing from domestic violence, the women fleeing from this violence also deserve his support in being able to access safe abortions.
While abortion rights are currently protected within Australia, like America, it is regulated by state government, and at the discretion of a doctor’s signature in matters surpassing the 22-week period. Accessibility also remains an issue in regional Australia’s ongoing healthcare crisis.
The rallies in the following weeks will bring light to Australia’s duty to actively uphold and protect our right to bodily autonomy and a woman’s agency in an ever-changing world that finds itself going backwards rather than forwards.
It is also time for the role of religion in politics to be discussed again in light of the religious fuelled opposition to abortion that contributed to the overturn of Roe vs. Wade in the United States. Separation of church and state is key in Australia, where the 2021 census has revealed almost 40 per cent of Australians identify as having no religion.
So, is it appropriate for politicians to still consider their religion when making decisions that affect the women of Australia? Will Dominic Perrottet break his silence in consideration of Labor’s landslide election and rally with the women of NSW in a time where women’s rights will be at the forefront of 2023’s state election?
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