Hundreds of people carried signs and chanted in support of a bill that would remove abortion from New South Wales criminal legislation at a rally in Sydney on Saturday.
The bill, co-sponsored by 15 MPs from across the political spectrum, attracted more than a dozen controversial proposed amendments in the lower house — where it passed in early August — and is likely to face many more in the upper house this month as the debate heats up.
“No amendments!” and “Trust women!” cheered the crowd gathered at Hyde Park.
A recent poll found the laws governing abortion in NSW are “out of step” with community attitudes while another survey found voters across the political spectrum in the state agree that seeking or performing pregnancy terminations should not be a criminal offence.
A rally against the bill has been organised by religious and anti-abortion groups in Sydney for Sunday.
BuzzFeed News asked some of the hundreds of people gathered at Saturday’s rally what they’d be doing with their day if abortion was not in the state’s criminal code.
Mother of two Melisa Kanisek brought her daughter to the rally to show their support for the bill.
“I would rather be spending time with the children I chose to have,” Kanisek, 27, told BuzzFeed News.
Amber Chang has an upcoming saxophone exam she really should be studying for.
“I would be practising, but I was like, ‘I kind of have to be here,'” Chang, 16, told BuzzFeed News.
Orange Is The New Black star Yael Stone and her sister Elana Stone said rallying for reproductive rights was what they’d like to be doing for the day.
“I think it’s our ideal Saturday,” Elana told BuzzFeed News. “If this bill was passed we wouldn’t need to be here, but I think it is important at this time to be fighting for just causes.”
Yael said attending the Women’s March in Washington in 2017 was “one of the most significant days” of her life.
“I believe in the idea of caring about the world you’re living in and the world you’re going to pass on to your kids, particularly your daughter,” she said, gesturing to her toddler. “I think being engaged is a great privilege of a democracy.”
Sneha Dangi, 34, said: “If not for this I would be planning my friend’s baby shower and going out for lunches with my husband.”
Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek attended the rally with her son and a group of Labor for Choice activists.
“The bad news for me is I had a work function before this and I’ve got two more work things to do after the march so if I wasn’t marching I would probably still be working, but in 10 years time, what do I want for my daughter and granddaughter? I want them never to have to think about just standing up for this most basic right of being able to make choices about your own reproductive health and your own body,” Plibersek told BuzzFeed News.
“I think the really important message of this campaign is ‘trust women’ as we are adults and we are able to make sensible informed decisions about our reproductive health and the fact that abortion is still in the criminal code in NSW today really is unforgivable.”
Natalie Charlton traveled down from Brisbane, Queensland, where abortion was decriminalised in October last year, just for the rally.
“I’d much rather be at the beach with friends or out to lunch, but this is where we need to be today,” Charlton, 24, told BuzzFeed News.
Melanie Wright, 27, said: “I would definitely be at the beach with my friends making the most of this beautiful weather just living my life.”
Gayatri Nair, 35, would have had a sleepy start to the day if abortion wasn’t still in the state’s criminal code.
“I would be sleeping in and reading [On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong] in bed, with tea,” Nair told BuzzFeed News.
Jeanne Rudd has been marching for reproductive rights since the 1970s and traveled from the Blue Mountains to rally.
“I can’t believe it has taken this long [for abortion to potentially be decriminalised],” the 70-year-old told BuzzFeed News. “If I wasn’t here, I would probably be at the Mount Victoria movie theatre as it is a lovely arthouse cinema where you can have a proper cup of tea while you watch the movie.”
This trio of friends came to the rally together to support the bill.
Chantal Dezarnaulds, 54, would rather be at the gym looking after her “mental health and physical wellbeing”.
“I think Pump was on so I’ve missed Pump for this!” Dezarnaulds told BuzzFeed News.
Chantal Dezarnaulds, 41, said: “I would rather be on a beach chilling with Roxane Gay’s latest novel than here fighting for abortion rights.”
“I’d prefer to be out with my two sons doing something fun and enjoying life,” Julie Stocca, 56, said.
Georgia Potter Butler, 37, was helping out as a marshal at the rally.
“I would rather be napping and I would rather be brunching,” Butler told BuzzFeed News.
Helen Shrewsbury, 27, said if reproductive rights weren’t “an issue” she would be at a slow fashion market in Sydney’s inner west.
“Why are we still talking about this and why is it still an issue? More shopping!” she told BuzzFeed News.