The NSW community is worse off, now that charitable offers of support to women entering abortion clinics is set to become a criminal offence, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.

During a marathon sitting on Thursday that ran almost until 2am in the morning, the NSW Parliament debated and passed a private members bill that creates what are termed “safe access zones” of 150 metres around all NSW abortion facilities.  

The new law makes it an offence to engage in communication that relates to abortions that is reasonably likely to cause distress or anxiety to persons accessing an abortion clinic.

The wording of the new law means the efforts of those who approach women outside clinics to offer them material support in a spirit of charity and kindness would now be engaging in conduct which constitutes an offence.

Speaking after the vote, ACL NSW director Kieren Jackson said, “Some women are in a difficult place and feel they lack options. These people on the footpaths provide the women with a range of support, covering medical costs, and accommodation. That kindness and generosity will now land these people in jail.“

“What the Parliament has done is take away that last ditch offer of support, one that has been taken up by hundreds of women over the last several years. That’s hundreds of babies whose lives were not ended, who are alive today.

“Much of the debate in both the upper and lower house debates over the bill focused on accusations and unproven claims of harassment.

“What I heard in the debate were accusations and talking points, not evidence of widespread malicious behaviour.

“In a disturbing twist to the debate, amendments that would have excluded silent prayer from being captured by the offence provisions of the bill were voted down.

“That the vast majority of the MPs chose to ignore the concerns of their colleagues about the need to exclude silent prayer from the offence provisions of the bill is alarming and does not paint a rosy picture for freedom of belief in this state,” Mr Jackson said.