Abortion law reform easily passes first reading in Parliament

Abortion law reform has easily passed its first reading in Parliament, with 94 in favour and 23 against. 

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Emotions ran high as MPs on all sides debated the divisive issue. Source: 1 NEWS

MPs made passionate speeches for and against the proposal to move abortion from the Crimes Act, having it instead treated as a health issue. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her view was "simple".

"Who am I, who is this House to determine anyone else’s reproductive rights?" she asked.

"The time is right for this debate, the time is right to put women's dignity and rights" at the centre of the debate, Ms Ardern said. 

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The Prime Minister was among the many politicians who had their say in Parliament this evening. Source: 1 NEWS

National's Agnes Loheni, who was against the bill, said she wanted to "call out [the] hypocrisy of the proposed changes being about women's health". 

"Abortion is overwhelmingly not about a mother's health, particularly in the first trimester," she said. "It is about a decision to terminate a life for lifestyle reasons.

"Good laws serve to protect the vulnerable in our society. How could it ever be out of date to want to protect the life of an unborn child?"

NZ First's Tracey Martin, who had been negotiating with Justice Minister Andrew Little for almost nine months, said she wanted to provide clarity over her party's recent announcement it would be proposing a referendum on abortion. 

Tracey Martin. Source: 1 NEWS

Ms Martin said over those months the NZ First caucus did not raise the abortion clause, and she did not raise it with them. 

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The coalition party’s suggestion comes just two days out from the first reading of the bill in Parliament. Source: 1 NEWS

She said after this period, the NZ First caucus voted in favour of proposing a referendum.

"This is how democracy works."

Ms Martin said she had apologised to Mr Little "for the lateness of this development".

NZ First voted in favour of the first reading and intends to vote in favour in the second. 

The proposed law would remove the statutory test for a person less than 20 weeks pregnant, allow a woman to self-refer to an abortion provider and create a body to look at buffer zones around some abortion providers. 

The Abortion Legislation Bill will move onto the next stage, where a special committee is to prepare a report on the bill and makes recommended changes. 

National's Paula Bennett spoke in support of the proposed changes, saying "women choosing not to carry out a pregnancy should not be a criminal act". 

Source: 1 NEWS

"No matter what this House does it will not stop abortions…They would be happening illegally and woman would be going through what we've seen in past decades, some of the most horrific health treatment.

"In my opinion we have a role to do it with compassion, to do it with the right checks and balances in place."

Some MPs brought their own stories to the House. National MP Louise Upston spoke about being advised to have an abortion, but decided against; Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown cried during his speech; and Labour MP Ginny Anderson recalled her mother making a choice to not have an abortion.

Judith Collins said she supported the bill, saying her mother was advised to get an abortion when pregnant with herself. Ms Collins joked some people had wished her mother had made a different decision.

"They’re not going to get me yet," she said.

"This is reality: abortion has been around forever. We have to support women going through this."

Marja Lubeck spoke about her own abortion at age 18 in the Netherlands, where it is legal. 

"It was the right decision and it was mine to make," she said. 

Maureen Pugh voiced her concern, saying she struggled to understand "what we are trying to fix". 

Ms Pugh said the current legislation was intended to protect women, and improving contraception access should be paramount. 

"Don't open the door to such liberalisation that turns abortion to quasi-contraception on demand."

Green Party's Jan Logie said 30 per cent of women "had to jump through multiple hoops to access abortion".

"I find the idea of forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will, actually shocking."

Jo Hayes called the bill a "slippery slope". 

"What is the rights of the unborn? It seems in this debate there is none."

Labour's David Parker said the debate was about whether the regulation of abortions in New Zealand should have a criminal overlay.