Independent MP Alex Greenwich introduced a historic Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill to decriminalise terminations of pregnancy as hundreds of anti-abortion protestors rallied outside NSW Parliament on Thursday.

MPs at Sydney’s lower house could hear the protesters from their chambers, as Mr Greenwich urged MPs to not delay reforms and put NSW in line with the rest of the country.

Greek Orthodox Archbishop Makarios released  a statement urging MPs to block the bill.

“It is with much heartfelt pain that we have learnt that a Bill allowing abortion until birth will swiftly unexpectedly and with no public consultation be introduced into New South Wales Parliament,” he wrote in a statement.  “Specifically this will allow abortion for any reason up until five and a half months and, up until birth with the agreement of two doctors. Further, doctors who object to abortion will be forced to violte their conscience and immediately refer a woman to another practitioner to perform the procedure.”

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With studies in bioethics, the primate stated that the rights of the unborn child are violated in the bill. “Along with other Church leaders, I have already written to our Premier of New South Wales urgently requesting her to allow time for proper public consultation before this Bill is presented for debate. We also personally beseech the honourable Members of Parliament to express their opposition to the Bill and support vulnerable pregnant mothers by offering other alternatives to abortion,” he writes.

Despite opposition of church groups, the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019 has widespread support in the Legislative Assembly and looks likely to pass. It also has the support of Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who is one of its 15 co-sponsors, as well as NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

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If successful, the bill will remove three sections of the NSW Crimes Act that criminalise “unlawfully” attempting to procure an abortion by administering drugs or using instruments or other means. The woman seeking an abortion can at the moment be prosecuted under the law, as can anyone who unlawfully performs an abortion or supplies the drugs or instruments that could be used for an abortion.