National

Freedom in NSW abortion bill ‘problematic’

By AAP Newswire

The head of the NSW premier's church believes freedoms for women contained in draft laws to decriminalise abortion across the state are "problematic".

Archbishop Haigazoun Najarian, who's the Primate of the Armenian Church in Australia and New Zealand, wants more time to discuss the "very serious issues" raised by the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill.

The draft legislation passed the lower house last week but is being examined by an upper house committee before heading to a second round of debate in the Legislative Council.

"We need time for open discussion," Archbishop Najarian told the parliamentary inquiry on Friday.

"Six months or a year can give us the opportunity to study the matter deeply and convincingly arrive to a conclusion which will beneficial to the majority. We are not experts on these issues."

Archbishop Najarian said his church's position was the same as that of most other Christian denominations. It's against terminations except on "very rare occasions" when the mother's life is in danger.

He suggested having abortion in the Crimes Act acted as a deterrent.

The archbishop expressed concern about the bill allowing terminations beyond 22 weeks if approved by two doctors.

"The freedom by which the individual can have her say in this issue is problematic for me," he said.

Archbishop Najarian suggested people other than medical professionals be involved in advising a woman about having an abortion, including parents if teenagers are involved, and the church if the person is religious.

"And then, only accordingly, to come to the doctors to see what the outcome will be," he told the inquiry.

He also wants more sex education for young people to help them better understand the consequences of their actions.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was born in Australia to Armenian immigrants and often attends Armenian Apostolic Church events.

She has publicly expressed her support for the private member's bill and voted in favour of it last week.

Labor MP Greg Donnelly - who is against the change - asked the archbishop on Friday whether he had spoken to Ms Berejiklian about the issue but the question was ruled out of order.

Imam Hassan Elsetohy also appeared on behalf of the Grand Mufti of Australia at the hearing alongside Metropolitan Basilios Kodseie from the Australian Antiochian Orthodox church.