The NSW upper house has rejected an amendment to a bill decriminalising abortion that sought to ban terminations on the grounds of sex selection.
After a heated debate that went long into Wednesday evening, the upper house voted 15 in favour of the amendment to 26 against.
The amendment, moved by Finance Minister Damien Tudehope, sought to ban terminations in which medical practitioners know, or ought reasonably to know, it's being performed for sex selection.
Attached was a maximum six-month prison sentence for the offence.
Labor MLC and bill co-sponsor Penny Sharpe, who opposed the amendment, said there was a worldwide problem regarding sex-selective abortions but no evidence it was taking place in NSW.
"The appropriate way forward is what's already there," Ms Sharpe said.
"We cannot reconcile the differences here. There are fundamental views in relation to this - that's why we have this legislation before the parliament, and the debate, and more time on this bill than any other.
"I am pleased members of this house have realised this is an important matter but understand there are some of us who have been looking at this for a very long time, looked at the evidence, read the reports."
Ms Sharpe cited a 2011 World Health Organisation report which found society-wide gender equity campaigns were the most effective tool to combat sex-selective abortion, adding bans "really don't work".
She said she was wary of any amendments that sought to place parliament between a woman seeking a termination and her doctor.
"The reality is that if we make it more difficult for people to get terminations, we don't stop terminations, we make them more unsafe," Ms Sharpe said.
But the upper house earlier passed an amendment that states doctors must provide appropriate care to babies born alive after a termination.
Nationals MP Niall Blair, who introduced the amendment, said he was disappointed MPs had to codify what already existed.
He said current obligations "unquestionably" required health practitioners to treat any newborn unless it was futile and if it was, palliative care was to be given.
But Mr Blair said something had to be done to address community concerns.
"Many in society think that whatever is being said in this area is actually true, that there would be doctors who would allow a child that had been born just to lay there and suffer," Mr Blair said.
In its current form, the bill would allow terminations up to 22 weeks as well as later abortions if two doctors agree.
While MPs on Wednesday agreed to Mr Blair's amendment, they rejected one from Christian Democrat and anti-abortion activist Fred Nile that also addressed care for a child born alive after a termination.
The upper house, since it resumed debate on Tuesday, previously voted down an amendment seeking to move the trigger for further medical oversight on abortions from 22 weeks' gestation to 20.
Other rejected changes include one seeking to have the bill refer to a pregnant "woman" rather than "person" and another that would delay the bill going into effect until it was proclaimed.
But the upper house agreed to an amendment moved by Liberal MP Taylor Martin to change the name of the laws from the Reproductive Health Care Reform Act 2019 to the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019.
The chamber also agreed to another by Mr Blair seeking to clarify doctors' obligations to get informed consent in circumstances where a woman lacks capacity to give it.
Debate on amendments to the bill will continue into the night on Wednesday and again on Thursday.
Australian Associated Press