Today, hundreds of Australian women are asking NSW police to arrest them.

In New South Wales in 2005, Emily Mayo technically committed a crime.

Hundreds of other women have also committed that same crime, at various life stages, with various reasons. Some did it decades ago, and some very recently.

Their crime, according to NSW law, was making a choice about their reproductive health. Their crime was to get an abortion.

What are the abortion laws in each of Australia’s states and territories? Post continues below video.

Video by Mamamia

Today, NSW parliament will debate a bill to finally remove abortion from the Crimes Act. To say it’s long overdue is a massive understatement: This law has stood for 119 years.

Mayo underwent a termination in 2005 and after reading about 80 women who took out an advertisement in a national newspaper to campaign for legalisation in the 1970s, started the #ArrestUs campaign on social media.

“Today, like in the 1970s, and while ever abortion is criminalised, some women face hurdles to access abortions and of course, for many it is difficult to speak out,” Mayo wrote in her Facebook post.

“The women who took out the advert in the 1970s did it because they could. They had the privilege to be able to speak up and they believed they had a responsibility to do so. And so it is time again, for those of us who can stand up and speak out to do so. One last time.”

Her goal was to initially have 50 women sign their name to represent 50 years since that 1970s ad, but the response has been “overwhelming”.

It’s grown so big she could not keep track of the number of women pledging their names to the campaign.

“It’s way bigger than I expected,” Mayo told Mamamia. “I am stunned.”

She said that at first, she was fearful of being open about her story and the reaction the campaign may garner, but said the response has been incredibly positive.


Hundreds of women have commented on the post with their own stories. Hundreds more have shared it to their own pages, with these women telling their stories and raising awareness for the issue within their own circles.

nsw abortion bill #arrestus
A pro choice demonstrator displays #ArrestUs on her hand as she rallies outside NSW Parliament on Tuesday. Image: Getty.

As NSW politicians enter parliament today for the debate, Mayo wants them to remember who they are representing.

"We come from all sorts of backgrounds. We are everyone," she said.

"The politicians who are making this decision today, I hope they think about that."

NSW is the only Australian state or territory that has not modernised its abortion laws.

Under the bill, a woman would not commit an offence if she procures a termination within the framework provided.

It would also repeal provisions of the Crimes Act relating to abortions and common law offences relating to abortion.

The bill would allow for terminations for women up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, and after this time if two doctors believe it should be performed considering medical, physical, social and psychological circumstances.

It would also create a new criminal offence under the Crimes Act for those who assist in terminations who are not authorised to do so – attracting a maximum penalty of seven years imprisonment.