Decriminalising abortion in NSW will be harder if controversial changes to the Crimes Act, known as Zoe’s law, are passed, critics say.
A small band of protesters gathered outside NSW parliament on Thursday, as the bill was debated.
They waved banners emblazoned with various slogans, including “Men against misogyny” and “my body is not your temple”.
Speaking at the protest, Labor MP Helen Westwood said the bill would make it harder for pro-choice campaigners to decriminalise abortion, which still comes under the Crimes Act.
“Once you give a foetus personhood, then it is a great threat to reproductive rights, but it is also a great way to control women’s behaviour while we are pregnant.”
The bill, which is being put to a conscience vote, is named in honour of the unborn baby of Brodie Donegan, who was hit by a drug-affected driver on Christmas Day in 2009.
Under the changes, a foetus that is either 20 weeks or 400 grams would be treated as a living person, allowing someone to be charged for its harm.
It would not apply to anything done with a pregnant woman’s consent or during a medical procedure.
But independent MP Alex Greenwich told parliament he believed anti-abortionists could use the laws to prosecute women.
It was “not a given” that abortions would constitute a medical procedure, he said.
“I understand that in an overseas law, recognition in the status of a foetus has been used against pregnant women who have addiction problems,” he added.
Liberal MP Ray Williams supported the bill, however, arguing: “Any normal woman would not only feel the pain of the accident that was suffered but also the anguish of losing her child”.