NSW abortion bill delayed in upper house

MP Alex Greenwich says the NSW upper house should pass his abortion bill as soon as possible.
MP Alex Greenwich says the NSW upper house should pass his abortion bill as soon as possible.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been accused of delaying the passage of an abortion bill to save her own skin after it became apparent the proposed decriminalisation laws won't pass the NSW upper house this week.

While some had hoped the bill would go to an upper house vote within days, Deputy Premier John Barilaro on Tuesday confirmed that wouldn't happen, amid reports his boss had buckled to conservatives.

It means the upper house debate - which began on Tuesday - will drag into September.

Mr Barilaro said a number of proposed amendments had been foreshadowed and the debate would be lengthy.

"It's just the reality that we will not have the time to deal with it in this particular sitting period," Mr Barilaro told reporters on Tuesday.

Don Harwin, the leader of the government in the Legislative Council, said coalition MPs supported getting more time to consider potential amendments and a committee report into the private member's bill.

But shadow treasurer Walt Secord said women had waited 119 years for abortion to be removed from the criminal code "and now the premier is delaying it to save herself".

"For the record, I'll be voting yes to the bill, but make no mistake, this has been bungled by the government," he said.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich - who introduced the draft laws - called on the upper house to pass the bill as soon as possible, saying the reform was long overdue.

The premier has faced pressure from opponents of the bill who have criticised the way it was introduced and the time available for public consultation.

A group of MPs including Christian Democrat Fred Nile, Shooters MP Robert Borsak and Liberal members Tanya Davies and Matthew Mason-Cox earlier on Tuesday held a press conference to speak against the bill.

Ms Davies called for it to be set aside so a fresh bill could be reintroduced after several months of consultation.

"I believe it is a crisis of government we are facing," she said.

"My community is absolutely outraged they have been shut out and denied any opportunity to participate in this process."

Ms Berejiklian has dismissed suggestions the proposed legislation was rushed.

"I have been in parliament for nearly 17 years and I can't remember a bill having so much debate in the lower house," she told reporters on Tuesday.

The premier also took a veiled swipe at federal Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce over his involvement in the debate after NSW residents received robocalls in which he urged them to oppose the bill.

"The NSW parliament is for NSW parliamentarians to get views from their communities, to look at their own consciences and vote accordingly," she said.

"This is an issue for NSW MPs."

The Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill previously passed the lower house 59 to 31.

Thousands of opponents - including Mr Joyce - rallied near parliament as the upper house debate continued on Tuesday evening, following a pro-choice demonstration earlier in the day.

Labor MP and bill co-sponsor Penny Sharpe told parliament the laws surrounding abortion were archaic and unclear, and created barriers for patients and doctors.

Nationals MP Niall Blair, another supporter of the bill, said he was confident NSW women could be trusted to make decisions that affected them and their families.

However, Fred Nile described the draft legislation as "a killing bill", while Finance Minister Damien Tudehope said it was a "cavalcade of horrors" which introduced into law "the kernel of eugenics".

"If we wish to regard ourselves as a compassionate and humane society, this bill must not proceed," Mr Tudehope said.

Australian Associated Press