'In 2018, it should no longer be a part of our Crimes Act' - PM discusses moving abortion to Health Act

Jacinda Ardern said there are a number of "flow on effects" from abortion being categorised in New Zealand's Crimes Act, as the Law Commission undertakes a consultation process to look at moving abortion into the Health Act. 

Ms Ardern said there were a "number of flow on effects" from abortion being categorised in the Crimes Act. Source: 1 NEWS

Recently Ireland voted in a referendum to legalise abortion, which means their Government are able to introduce legislation to have abortion in Ireland's health services. 

Today the Prime Minister was asked in a press conference about New Zealand's abortion laws in comparison with Ireland's. 

"I think there is a difference," Ms Ardern said. "You can access abortions in New Zealand, the issue is we still categorise it within our Crimes Act, and of course there are then a number of flow on effects from it being categorised in that way, for the way that women access."

"My personal view is that in 2018, it should no longer be a part of our Crimes Act, regardless of whether or not women can access it."

Minister of Justice Andrew Little told Stuff it was possible legislation that would move abortion from the Crimes Act to the Health Act would go through Parliament next year, with MPs able to have a conscience vote on the issue. He asked the Law Commission in February to research changing abortion policy. 

"That's why I think it's only right that we have the Law Commission undertake this work," Ms Ardern said. 

Ms Ardern today was asked about the process of a conscience vote on the issue (where MPs can vote on their own view, rather than their party's), as opposed to a referendum.

"We're working through a process where I hope we would see a large range of support, I don't want to pre-empt that, but I hope the process would have a significant number of Parliamentarians who would support the work that's been done.

"The Law Commission is leading it, they're undertaking a consultation process, we're trying to do this in a way we can garner that support more broadly."

She said the issue was one she wanted to "see dealt with" during this term. "So a focus for me will be making sure that we've got that broad support so we can see it through to its end point". 

"We're doing the work as we speak."

Earlier today, National Party leader Simon Brides told TVNZ1's Breakfast he would "be loath to" remove abortion from New Zealand's Crimes Act, saying the law as it stands today is working.

"Pracitically speaking, we have several thousand abortions per year here ... I would argue actually, in reality, it is rare, safe and legal," he said. 

"My argument is ... what's wrong with the law as it's working today? Why would we go there and make the changes?

"Ultimately, the Law Commission's got some work going on, so let's see what they say."