Crude outburst sees person booted from public gallery as abortion law reform passes second reading

Abortion law reform has passed its second reading in Parliament tonight.

The vote was 81 in favour and 39 against. 

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Ms Kanongata'a-Suisuiki said her opposition was "derived by a Christian-Tongan culture" while Ms Kaye called NZ’s abortion laws among the most archaic in the world. Source: 1 NEWS

The Abortion Legislation Bill would move abortion from the Crimes Act to the Health Act, remove the statutory test for a person who is 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 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. 

National MP Agnes Loheni was brought to tears during the debate. 

“I am deeply saddened by this bill’s blatant attack on the right for life for unborn babies,” she said. 

Ms Loheni told Parliament there was no provisions around conscious objection to abortion. 

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The bill would see abortion removed from the Crimes Act. Source: Breakfast

“How can one doctor deny a woman an abortion under these criteria?” she asked. 

The public gallery broke into applause when Ms Loheni finished her speech, and were reprimanded by the Speaker. 

Her colleague Amy Adams, who was also on the abortion select committee, came out strongly for the bill, calling the current settings “restrictive and outdated”. 

“This is not abortion on demand, this is simply untrue. The doctor is the decision maker and the doctor is never compelled to carry out the procedure. 

“It is not abortion up to birth. It is factitious and misleading to suggest otherwise.”

Ms Adams moved onto the issue of abortion post 20 weeks – saying they were “always wanted pregnancies”.

“Women are not fickle hare-brained people who suddenly wake up not wanting their pregnancies. Most are tragic situations; it is an offence to suggest otherwise."

Labour MP Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki told the House her view and oppositions were "derived by a Tongan culture and a Christian-Tongan culture". 

Ms Kanongata'a-Suisuiki spoke of her worry around the age of consent of abortion.

“My main concern is about informed consent,” she said. “If a woman is pregnant at 13, how informed is the consent?”

ACT’s David Seymour, who was in favour of the bill, said many people found it stigmatising “to be labelled a criminal”. 

“The overwhelming amount of New Zealanders believe it is important to follow the law.” 

He said abortion services were inequitable between provincial areas and cities, saying one women’s experience trying to access an abortion in a smaller town increased “difficulties, rigmarole, trauma”.  

Mr Seymour said his third issue with the current law was that “women have to invent a story they are mentally unwell” to access abortion.  

During the last speech by Green MP Jan Logie, who was in favour of the bill, a member from the public gallery stood and yelled in protest, saying “shame on you” and “f**king disgusting”, before being kicked out of the House by Speaker Trevor Mallard. 

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

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.

Earlier today, 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. 

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

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. 

Amnesty executive director Meg de Ronde said they welcomed the passing of the second reading, calling it a “crucial moment to move our law forward to ensure all pregnant people can enjoy autonomy and dignity”.

She said there was room for “careful monitoring and possible improvements” to the bill, including around the conscious objection aspect “to make sure where there are health practitioners who object, women who might have other barriers are still able to access abortion”. 

"That’s an area to keep a close eye on."