NSW premier defends delay on abortion bill

The NSW premier says the delay of a bill to decriminalise abortion is a 'breather' on the issue.
The NSW premier says the delay of a bill to decriminalise abortion is a 'breather' on the issue.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian has urged the NSW public and her colleagues to "trust the process" when it comes to a bill decriminalising abortion while dismissing discord within her government as "the nature of democracy".

The Liberal leader on Wednesday was backed by two opponents of the draft legislation - Attorney-General Mark Speakman and Police Minister David Elliott - with the former expressing confidence Ms Berejiklian will lead the party at the next election.

The NSW upper house is debating the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill which would remove abortion from the Crimes Act.

It passed the lower house in early August but the bill won't reach a final vote in the Legislative Council until September.

Ms Berejiklian on Wednesday distanced herself from the decision to delay the upper house vote but said the "breather" would help MPs fully consider proposed amendments and a parliamentary report into the private member's bill.

"The upper house made that decision yesterday in relation to taking a breather and I'm completely comfortable with that decision," the premier told reporters in Sydney.

"Please trust the process. I trust the process. I know the process will deliver an outcome the vast majority of people in NSW are very comfortable with."

Ms Berejiklian has faced speculation about her leadership following pressure from opponents of the bill upset with how it was handled and the time given for public consultation.

Mr Speakman - who voted against the draft legislation in the lower house - acknowledged abortion was a contentious issue.

"There are going to be colourful and emotional statements from time to time, strong feelings, strong passion, but when this bill is dealt with one way or another this government will get on with what we've been elected to do," he told reporters.

NSW was "blessed to have a strong leader" in Ms Berejiklian, he said, noting her decisive election victory in March.

"I am very confident Gladys Berejiklian will be leading us into the next election."

Mr Elliott, who accused colleague and leader of the house Andrew Constance of "maladministration" over the bill's introduction, said he was happy with the premier's leadership on the issue.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights has expressed disappointment in the delay insisting the reforms were long overdue.

"As the only remaining Australian state that has never reformed its abortion laws and does not provide for lawful termination of pregnancy it is incumbent on the NSW parliament to urgently reform laws on abortion," ALHR president Kerry Weste said in a statement.

The upper house is expected to discuss proposed amendments to the bill during the next parliamentary sitting week in mid-September before it goes to a vote.

Australian Associated Press