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September 2, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Abortion Reform Bill Passes First Reading, May Get Challenged In Later Votes

Parliament passed the Abortion Legislation Bill by 94 to 23 votes during its first reading earlier this month. The bill was introduced to Parliament by Justice Minister Andrew Little after months of Government deliberation. 

 

The proposed changes include taking abortion out of the Crimes Act, removing statutory testing for women not over 20 weeks pregnant, and establishing safe zones outside abortion clinics which prohibits protesting within 150 m.

 

The bill is being treated as a conscience issue, meaning MPs are not required to vote along party lines and can instead cast their votes independently. 

 

MPs from all political parties voted in favour during the first reading. However, some said they would reconsider their position in later stages.

 

Jan Logie MP spoke on behalf of the Green Party during the bill’s first reading, offering unanimous support from all Green MPs. 

 

She pointed out the current abortion laws hadn’t been updated since the 1970s when “the law supported a man’s right to have sex with his wife regardless of whether she wanted it or not”.

 

Logie also said the reforms didn’t go far enough to support pregnant people. She said people should be allowed to access abortions without requiring statutory testing regardless of how many weeks pregnant they were.

 

“It is an odd proposition to suggest that Parliament has a better idea of what’s right for anybody in this context than they know themselves,” Logie said.

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern highlighted the long wait times and numerous hurdles pregnant people face when accessing abortions under the current laws. She quoted a letter she received, which she described as “completely compelling”.

 

“All I wanted was for it to be over, but I had to go through multiple appointments, rounds of judgment and justifications from strangers,” Ardern quoted.

 

“It made a hard time considerably harder. I had no doubts, no second thoughts, but plenty of guilt and a lot of shame,” the letter continued.

 

Paula Bennett and Judith Collins, with other National Party MPs, also spoke in favour of the bill. 

 

Collins supported the bill because she “would want to know that [she] had options in life”. She acknowledged her position of privilege having never found herself unexpectedly pregnant.

 

National Party Deputy Leader Paula Bennett said her support stemmed from her belief that those wanting an abortion should not be criminalised. 

 

She also said illegal and back-street abortions would continue to occur if the law was too restrictive, “no matter what this House does, it will not stop abortions happening”.

 

New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin confirmed all nine NZF MPs would vote for the bill during its first and second readings. She also said the Party would put forward a referendum amendment during the final reading, which would require the public to have the final say on the bill.

 

Martin said this decision was in line with the party’s “historical position on the issue” but revealed not everyone in the caucus was happy with the choice.

 

One MP who opposed the reforms was National MP Maureen Pugh, who hoped the Bill wouldn’t result in abortion becoming “quasi-contraceptive on demand”. 

 

Pugh said she struggled to understand the issues this bill was trying to fix as she considers the current laws provide sufficient “safeguards” for women receiving abortions.

 

The bill uses the term ‘woman’ when referring to those who can receive abortions. Many have criticised this, saying gender-neutral terminology should be used to make the bill more inclusive.

 

The bill has been referred to the Abortion Legislation Committee to hear submissions from the public. 

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