Abortion law reform set for second reading tonight, as protestors descend on Parliament

As abortion law reform goes into its second reading in Parliament this evening, protestors outside holding highly graphic images have been battling Wellington's wind. 

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The wind caught some of the signs sending them up Parliament and the Beehive. Source: 1 NEWS

The first reading passed 94 in favour and 23 against in August last year.

The Abortion Legislation Bill would move abortion from the Crimes Act to the Health Act, 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. 

If it passes its second hurdle, the proposed law will move to committee of the House, where it is set to be debated in detail by all of Parliament before a final vote. 

Gina Sunderland of March for Life NZ, who was outside Parliament this afternoon, told 1 NEWS her and about 12 others were holding signs that included highly graphic images "because our Prime Minister and our Labour Government are not listening to the people".

She hoped some MPs would be "shocked, mortified and they will see how wrong it is" through their posters. 

We have tried everything, we have done all that we can to try to influence a very liberal Government. It's never been a health issue and it never will be. They're little human beings and that is absolutely wrong."

However, the strong wind in Wellington picked up two of the posters that did not contain graphic images, blowing one up the steps of Parliament and the other up to almost the top of the Beehive, before falling down. 

When asked this morning about the intentions to show graphic images, Justice Minister Andrew Little said he thought people "who do that are pretty sick actually, I think the decision a woman makes about abortion is a very serious decision. 

"People who try to trivialise it, people who demean women who make that decision, I think there's something seriously wrong with them."

Some of the changes that have been proposed if the bill passes its second reading included a possible referendum, put forward by NZ First. 

"The caucus has decided that all nine of us should support that supplementary order paper - then we're going to have to see where it goes," NZ First MP Tracey Martin said.

On if the late addition of the order paper was hōhā (annoying), Ms Martin said she had been negotiating for a number of months with Labour, and NZ First MP Darroch Ball had been away for a couple of caucus meetings. 

"So he brought information to the table and I work in a democracy, he got more support out of the caucus than I did."

Today, an open letter in support of law reform was written to MPs by 35 signatories including Amnesty International Aotearoa, the Mental Health Foundation, New Zealand Nurses Organisation and UN Women Aotearoa New Zealand. 

"Our current abortion laws – unchanged since 1977 – are out of date and not fit for purpose," the letter reads. "They create unacceptable barriers to healthcare access; and in doing so increase the distress, delay and financial burden faced by someone who seeks to end a pregnancy."

"At its core, this Bill is about supporting women and pregnant people’s autonomy, dignity and wellbeing."

The current rules allow for abortion under 20 weeks in cases of serious danger to life, physical health or mental health, incest and foetal abnormality. Sexual violation is a factor that can be taken into account.

A person needs two certifying doctors to provide certificates to obtain an abortion, and unbiased counselling must be undertaken prior.