New laws making it illegal to communicate, film or intimidate a woman near a NSW abortion clinic have been passed by the state’s parliament.
The legislation, which was supported by premier Gladys Berejiklian, passed the parliament’s lower house late on Thursday night after a marathon debate.
The laws, which passed the state’s upper house in May, will provide a 150-metre exclusion zone around clinics and make it an offence to film staff and patients without their consent.
Ms Berejiklian was supported by Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro and a host of other government MPs in a debate that transcended partisan politics.
Mr Barilaro told parliament he had visited an abortion clinic with a young woman 27 years ago, and spoke of the fear and anxiety the experience provoked.
“When you actually attend you’re scared, the fear is already inside you,” Mr Barilaro said.
“By the time we arrived at the clinic, it was too late to change our mind.”
He said he did not want his daughters to ever have to be accosted by protesters if they needed to go through the same experience.
A notable opponent of the bill was Minister for Women Tanya Davies, who said the laws didn’t distinguish between sharing information and harassment.
“I believe that the bill will be counterproductive to the object of women having choice by denying support and informed choice to vulnerable women when they need it the most,” Ms Davies said.
“I believe the penalties imposed by the bill are excessive, disproportionate and out of step with comparative legislation in NSW.”
Minister for Prevention of Domestic Violence Pru Goward, a former sex discrimination commissioner, also voted against the bill.
She said it was an attack on freedom of speech.
“My position I know will please no one, but it is the position of my conscience,” Ms Goward told a near-empty lower house chamber on Thursday evening.
Others argued giving women the freedom to access medical clinics without being harassed was not curtailing free speech.
“We are simply setting boundaries around places where women are undergoing some of the most difficult experiences of their lives,” Labor MP Jenny Aitchison told parliament.
Labor MP and architect of the bill Penny Sharpe said the parliament had taken a “small but important step” to give women in NSW safe access to medical treatment.
“I’m pleased and relieved that MPs across the political divide have supported the bill. A terrific day for women in NSW,” Ms Sharpe told AAP in a statement.
Outside parliament earlier in the day, reproductive rights activists and health professionals joined anti-abortion protesters to voice their opinions.
Marie Stopes Clinic nurse unit manager Kitty Grozdich supports the bill and said she, her staff and patients were often subject to harassment on their way into the clinic.
“There is a woman who is standing about 20 metres from me right now, and last week she told me that I’m going to hell,” Ms Grozdich told reporters.
“She says that she prays for me. I don’t need her prayers, I just need her to go away.”