Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison has raised concerns that the NSW Minister for Women Tanya Davies opposes abortion.
The comments coincide with the government’s move to develop a women’s strategy for NSW.
Mrs Davies has been hosting community consultation workshops for the strategy over the past month, including in Newcastle.
“I would always support the right of a woman to have her own decision about abortion,” Ms Aitchison said.
“But when you’re in public office, you have a responsibility to support the majority of women.”
Mrs Davies said her role was to “represent the concerns, values and interests of all women across the state”.
“While some, including Jenny, have chosen to use labels to describe my personal views, I continue to support a woman’s right to choose the path that is best for her and her decision should be respected,” Mrs Davies said.
Ms Aitchison, who is the shadow minister for the prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault, said sexism and discrimination against women remained a serious problem in NSW.
She said the NSW government had decimated feminist-run refuges.
The government had previously funded refuges in NSW with $40 million a year to operate domestic violence services.
“That was cut to $20 million,” Ms Aitchison said.
She said the number of refuges run by the feminist movement in NSW had since fallen dramatically.
Some refuges were now run by faith-based and/or not-for-profit groups through a state-run tender process.
She was concerned that some of these organisations oppose abortion and divorce, which could conflict with women’s rights and safety.
Mrs Davies agreed that sexism and discrimination against women remained serious problems in NSW.
“Which is why I am astounded a fellow female member of parliament would choose to personally attack me, instead of taking this opportunity to work together and tackle the challenges for women and girls.
“I believe improving the social and economic security of women should be a bipartisan matter.”
Ms Aitchison said if the Coalition wanted to work together, it would not have dismantled feminist services.
She said the Coalition had failed to show the political will to do “anything substantial” for women.
Mrs Davies said the government had supported vulnerable women by investing more to help the homeless and doubling the budget for specialist domestic violence initiatives.
Nevertheless, Ms Aitchison said there was a general lack of support for women and feminism within the Berejiklian government.
“Having women in leadership positions is really important,” she said, adding the government must do more in this area.
Of the 23 cabinet ministers in the government, six are women (including the Premier).
The ALP shadow ministry has 22 members, including nine women.
In percentage terms, the cabinet includes 26 per cent women and the shadow ministry 41 per cent.
Ms Aitchison said it was time for the government to ditch “old-boy networks” and start doing more for women, particularly in areas like boardroom representation in private and public sectors.
The government has said it is committed to increase the representation of women on boards and committees, as well as making more women board-ready.
One of the 12 “Premier’s priorities” is to increase the proportion of women in senior leadership roles to 50 per cent in the government sector, increase boardroom representation over the next 10 years, while ensuring all public sector roles are flexible by 2019.
Mrs Davies said it was time for Labor to “ditch the political grandstanding and first and foremost start supporting the women of NSW, so we can work on real solutions to improve their lives”.
“I call on Jenny, and the Labor Party, to support the objectives of the NSW Women’s Strategy which are to champion respect and equality for women.”
Ms Aitchison said Labor supports “anything which addresses the rights of women”.
“We just don’t want to have to start from zero because of the government’s poor record on advocating for women,” she said.