Berejiklian rolls over on gender selection abortion, rules out voluntary euthanasia

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Premier Gladys Berejiklian is urging her upper house colleagues to consider amending the abortion bill to ban gender selection as she scrambles to quell anger from conservative MPs.

Ms Berejiklian said she would be “absolutely” prepared to change the Crimes Act to ban gender selection abortions and encouraged upper house MPs to give the issue "careful consideration".

But she said voluntary euthanasia was a different social issue to decriminalising abortion and she would be uncomfortable supporting it.

Abortion and voluntary assisted dying were seen as the two key social issues that would emerge in the Coalition’s third term.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is open to amending abortion decriminalisation bill in upper house.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is open to amending abortion decriminalisation bill in upper house.

While Ms Berejiklian is in Europe for a trade mission, some Liberal MPs are in open warfare, with Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Police Minister David Elliott having a public stoush over the abortion issue.

Speaking in Munich, Ms Berejiklian said she expected her ministers to do their jobs while she was overseas.

“My strong message to them and everyone else is to be respectful and to conduct themselves how the public would expect them to behave,” she said.

“It’s always the case that whenever the premier is doing what she needs to do, whether it is myself or any of my predecessors, this is what occurs.”

The issue of gender selection abortions has been seized on by some MPs after the decriminalisation bill passed the lower house last week. The bill will be debated in the upper house next week.

Labor leader Jodi McKay is also understood to be concerned about gender selection abortions, with some of her western Sydney MPs receiving hundreds of emails about the issue.

A Labor source said: “Jodi has made it very clear that she’s not going to accept gender selection and that she’ll vote for an amendment that strikes it out and makes it illegal.”

Ms Berejikilian said she would be supportive of the upper house tightening the laws because the government should be "not only doing the right thing, but we should be seen to be doing the right thing".

"If there were any members of the upper house who wanted to strengthen those provisions, I would be more than comfortable with that," she said.

Several senior ministers said the fall out from the abortion debate meant the party would “steer clear” of other key social issues that were likely to emerge this term, including voluntary assisted dying.

In 2017, the upper house debated a bill to make it legal for terminally ill NSW residents aged 25 or over and expected to die within 12 months to end their own life with medical assistance.

It was narrowly defeated by 19 votes to 20 but supporters had been confident that the new makeup of the upper house would make it more likely to pass this term.

Ms Berejiklian said she does not think community attitudes towards voluntary assisted dying had changed.

“I think the difference with abortion was the inevitability of the debate because it has been talked about for a while and we lagged behind the other states quite considerably. That is not the case with other social issues,” she said.

“The upper house dealt with assisted dying in 2017 and it didn’t get up...we have had the debate.”

“That is much greyer [where as] abortion is taking something out of the Crimes Act and putting it in the health act.”

A working group on assisted dying has not been formed yet, but is expected that this will happen in the next couple of months.

But several sources said the progressing the issue to a vote would likely to be delayed after the “bruising abortion debate”.

“Nobody is ready to go through a difficult issue like this again anytime soon,” one senior Coalition MP said.

Voluntary euthanasia, which is legal in Victoria and likely to be introduced in Western Australia, would be conscience vote if a bill was brought forward.