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July 29, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Wellington Marches for Abortion Reform

 

In New Zealand, abortion is currently a crime under the Crimes Act 1961, where it has been for over 50 years. Minister for Justice Andrew Little took to the Law Comission in Febuary of 2018, to assess what abortion would look like in New Zealand if it were to be considered a health issue instead. 

 

Three alternatives to the current law surrounding abortion were given in a consensus draft presented to cabinet last Tuesday:

 

Model A requires a patient to decide whether or not to have an abortion alongside their health practitioner. 

Model B requires a doctor to decide whether it would be  appropriate, given the patient’s circumstances.

Model C applies Model A for pregnancies up to 22 weeks, and Model B after 22 weeks. 

 

Tuesday also saw the Wellington March for Arbortion Reform, calling on Cabinet to support Model A. 

 

The march was hosted by the Victoria University Feminist Organisation, VUW Feminist Law Society, Fem Force, VUWSA, and Organisation Aotearoa.

 

Salient spoke to Tara Ó Súilleabháin, Co-president of VicUFO and march co-organiser. She said that it was “about solidarity with those being denied autonomy all over the world, while also reminding Labour of its promise to reform abortion law in NZ”.

 

The protest began at the Hub, with banners in hand reading “Autonomy from Alabama to Aotearoa” before pausing at Midland Park where Salient had the opportunity to speak to protesters. 

 

“New Zealand needs to stop thinking with an old-school mentality,” one protester said. 

 

Another added that “being criminalised makes [abortion] so much more traumatic and inaccessible to women”. Meanwhile, one person (who didn’t attend the march) said they “don’t think it is as big of an issue as say, climate change”. 

 

The march continued through to Parliament where speeches began. The audio of a beating heart, broadcasted by counter protesters, could still be heard.

 

Terry Ballamak, President of ALRANZ, explained that presently, “If anyone were to provide an abortion outside of the narrow confines of the law, they could recieve as much as 14 years in prison.”

 

According to Family Planning, age and/or sexual violence alone are not considered legal grounds for an abortion. They are only taken into account in the presence of serious danger to physical health, mental health, or cases of foetal abnormality. 

 

Jan Logie, Green Party MP and Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice, spoke next. The Green Party, she said, will be supporting Option A. The Party “fundamentally believe[s] that we need to trust women and pregnant people to make the right decisions for themselves.”

New Zealand can “often feel a little bit smug sometimes about being really progressive,” Logie continued. “Our current laws undermine good health care, they put barriers in the way for people being able to access fundamental health care services.” 

She finished by saying that this is “just not acceptable in this day and age”. 

Family Planning Chief Executive, Jackie Edmond, also confirmed that the organisation supports Option A. 

Dame Margaret Sparrow closed the speeches with her personal experience with abortion. Admitting that the audience was “looking at a criminal… I did my own abortion.” 

 

She has since been an abortion-operating doctor for 18 years. 

 

The full Cabinet has yet to see the bill. However, Andrew Little, who is in favour of Option C,  has implied that a decision will take weeks rather than months.

 

VUW informed Salient that Mauri Ora GPs can provide initial assessments and referrals for those interested in pursuing an abortion.

 

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