Andrew Little says claims reforms will allow abortion up to birth are 'absurd'

Justice Minister Andrew Little says claims that the Government's planned reform of abortion laws unveiled today will allow abortions right up to birth are absurd and the sort of statement that gets made by "fanatic anti-abortion people". 

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The Justice Minister says that statement gets made by "the fanatic anti-abortion people" but there's no such thing as abortion right up to birth. Source: Q+A

Sweeping reforms of abortion laws will see it removed from the Crimes Act and brought under health legislation as a health issue.

Changes include self-referral, meaning women can go directly to an abortion clinic and will not need to see their GP.  

The need for counselling is also removed.

Women under 20 weeks pregnant will no longer be subject to any kind of test, while women who're over 20 weeks pregnant will now only need the approval of one doctor, as opposed to two.

National MP Chris Penk says the changes mean the Government is "liberalising abortion right up to birth".

Mr Little told TVNZ1's Q+A tonight that's not correct.

"That's an absurd sort of statement that gets made by the fanatic anti-abortion people. There's no such thing as abortion right up to birth. A foetus that leaves the womb at birth is called a birth. So let's get that right," the minister said. 

"The reality is, when you look at when abortions happen for New Zealand women, the bulk of them happen in that up to 16 weeks. Actually 90 per cent happen in the first trimester," he said. 

Interviewer Jack Tame put to Mr Little a hypothetical case of a woman who goes to her doctor after 22 weeks pregnancy with no medical complications and says she doesn't want to have the baby and wants an abortion.

Asked is there anything to stop that happening, Mr Little said: "Well the health professional carrying out the abortion will have an obligation to be satisfied that the abortion is appropriate given the woman's physical and mental health as well as her wellbeing."

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NZ’s 40-year-old abortion law is finally getting the update many have been waiting for. Source: 1 NEWS

Mr Little said he doesn't have precise numbers on support for the bill but thinks there's a good change it'll pass its first reading in Thursday.

"What I do know is from the consultations that I've had, including with the National Party, is I think we've got a good change of getting a majority on Thursday.

"And I hope we do because I think if the bill passes first reading, gets to a select committee, that's the opportunity for a fullsome public debate and examination of the proposed law. And then we can come back to it in the subsequent readings," the minister said.

Later in the programme, both sides of the abortion debate reacted to the planned reforms.

Kate Cormack of Voice for Life said there's nothing in the bill to stop abortion up to birth.

"If this is abortion up to birth that's being proposed by Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government then why does the bill not state that? Why does the bill not prevent abortion up to birth? Why doesn't it stop abortion at 30 weeks? There's nothing like that being proposed in this," she said.

Terry Bellamak of Abortion Rights Aotearoa said the reason the bill doesn't do that "is because the people who wrote it trust women to decide for themselves whether and when to become a parent".