A bill to ban protesters from outside abortion clinics passed the NSW Parliament with overwhelming support last night, despite the current and former Ministers for Women voting against it.
After hours of passionate debate, the private members bill passed the Lower House just before midnight at 61 votes to 18, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro among its supporters.
It means protesters who intimidate, harass or film people within 150 metres of clinics or hospitals that provide terminations will face punishments including jail time.
Upper House Labor MP Penny Sharpe, who was one of the driving forces behind the bill, described it as a "terrific day for women in New South Wales".
But she expressed dismay that The Minister for Women, Tanya Davies, and the former minister Pru Goward were among those who voted against it.
Ms Davies, who has previously described herself as "pro-life" defended the "sidewalk counsellors" who approach women seeking terminations.
"They don't force their views onto those women — they offer support and information that ... may not necessarily be provided within an abortion clinics," Ms Davies said.
"They don't force their views onto these women, they are offering simply another choice to these women — yet this Bill will criminalise that offer."
Ms Davies' position also raised the eyebrows of some of her Coalition colleagues, with some now questioning her fitness for the role.
One Government backbencher told the ABC, "I honestly cannot believe that the Minister for Women would vote against women's safety. Un-f**cking believable".
Another Coalition MP said, "This Bill is about respect, dignity and privacy of women — for the Minister for Women to not support this you have to seriously question if her position is tenable".
The current Family and Community Services Minister Pru Goward — who also served as Women's Minister in the past — also voted against the Bill, saying it was because she is a "strong and visceral believer" in the right to free speech.
"I would so much like to support this Bill, I know what it will mean to the women affected but I cannot," she told the chamber.
Ms Goward said she has always been a "strong supporter" of a woman's right to an abortion but said censorship "often begins gently and sensitively".
Earlier, Labor's Jenny Aitchison delivered an impassioned plea to her parliamentary colleagues urging them to protect women against "appalling" behaviour of protesters.
"We need to call it out for what it is," Ms Aitchison said.
"Violence, harassment and intimidation of women.
"I urge all members of the house when they are making their decision to consider this, we are not acting to curtail free speech or political communication.
"We are not stopping people from praying or holding their faith and we are not imposing overly harsh penalties on people who do not want to harm others."
Multicultural Affairs and Disability Services Minister, Ray Williams, said he could "never ever" support a Bill that could see someone imprisoned for "counselling, speaking or praying".
"I will always stand by the right of people to freely advocate, to speak out on behalf of issues that they feel very, very strongly," he said.
Liberal MP Alister Henskens said the Bill would achieve the opposite to its intended objectives and encourage more protests.
"Rather than reducing the amount of protests around abortion clinics and reducing the general anxiety around those premises, this Bill creates a new context for civil protest."
He raised concerns about the way the Bill was drafted, claiming it would "criminalise speech" and "erode freedom of expression".
"I'm am not motivated by any religious affiliations or obligations, I'm not a regular churchgoer," he said.
"A serious concern that I have with this Bill is that it imposes a new kind of restraint on the freedom of expression that has not occurred before."