MORE than a thousand people have marched in Sydney to mark International Women's Day and oppose a proposed NSW law they fear will curb women's reproductive rights.
The peaceful march from Town Hall to Hyde Park on Saturday stretched two city blocks with banners demanding equal pay for women and the rejection of the controversial "Zoe's law" bill.
The legislative changes currently before the state's upper house would make it a criminal offence to destroy or harm a foetus after it reaches 20 weeks or 400 grams.
The bill was named in honour of the stillborn daughter of Brodie Donegan, who was hit by a drug-affected driver on Christmas Day in 2009.
Ms Donegan was the only victim recognised under current NSW law, which does not grant a foetus personhood.
Opponents of the law say it will open the door to women being prosecuted for smoking, drinking or taking drugs during pregnancy.
At Saturday's rally, Coral Levett, the president of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association, said that at first glance Zoe's law represented "a compassionate response to a tragic situation".
But she said the law would just cause more trauma and injustice, potentially imposing restrictions on pregnant women's behaviour and opening them up to charges of grievous bodily harm to a foetus.
Ms Levett said legal, medical and women's groups opposed the law and there was legal concern it could restrict women's access to abortion. The bill includes provisions designed to protect pregnant women, medical practitioners from prosecution and preserve abortion access.
But Gabe Kavanagh of the Women's Electoral Lobby NSW told the rally it was an "underhand attack on our right to choose under the guise of personal tragedy" despite the bill's drafters denying it was not about abortion access.
"Foetal personhood is a classic tactic of the American anti-choice movement."
Ms Kavanagh said that in 2004 a Utah woman was charged with murder when she refused to undergo a caesarean section for her twins, and one died at birth.
"This is the kind of thing that foetal personhood leads to."
Ms Levett also told the rally that Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed that on average, full-time working women's earning were 17 per cent less than those of men.
She said women retired with less than half the amount of savings in their superannuation accounts than men, condemning many women to poverty in retirement.