The federal minister for women, Marise Payne, says it is not OK for people to be asked about private health issues during live interviews, in a rebuke to a Sydney radio host who asked the New South Wales premier whether she would have an abortion.
Payne was asked by the ABC on Sunday whether the question put by the 2GB host Ben Fordham to Gladys Berejiklian last week was an appropriate question to ask any woman, let alone a female premier.
“I don’t think that it is appropriate to ask anyone male or female sensitive health questions like that, and it’s not OK,” Payne said.
Asked whether she supported the intent of the bill in NSW to take abortion out of the Crimes Act, Payne said the issue was ultimately a matter for the state parliament, but she supported the change: “I do think that it is important for it to be decriminalised, yes.”
Modelled on legislation passed in Queensland last year and co-sponsored by 15 MPs from across the political divide, the NSW reproductive healthcare Reform bill would remove abortion from the state’s 119-year-old Crimes Act and creates a standalone healthcare act to regulate the procedure.
While polling suggests the proposal has majority community support, the legislation has triggered a noisy backlash from both conservatives in politics, including, controversially, the former federal Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce, and from conservative commentators in the media.
Asked by Fordham last Friday whether she would have a termination, the premier said: “I can’t speak for what circumstances I’d be faced with … but I’m not someone who’d be comfortable with going through that process.
“I’m a very conservative person who would not feel comfortable with having that process. But that’s just me. I can’t speak for other women. It’s not my place … I don’t want anyone to feel guilty about decisions they’ve made.”
With state politicians openly at odds, Joyce’s campaigning has dragged the controversy into the federal scene.
The NSW deputy premier, John Barilaro, gave Joyce a blast after he recorded a series of robocalls claiming the bill would “legalise abortion for any reason right up until the day of birth” and addressed an anti-abortion protest outside the state parliament.
The bill has passed the lower house but debate in the upper house has been deferred.