Earlier this month, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced the long awaited overhaul of our abortion laws in New Zealand. Craccum gives you the rundown of the abortion law reform debates including which MPs voted against giving women fundamental reproductive rights.
The Abortion Legislation Bill has passed its first reading in the house 94-23 with widespread support for the Bill to go to a newly formed Select Committee. It is expected that the second and third readings may attract more votes against as the Bill reaches its final form.
This Bill updates the current 1961 Crimes Act and the 1977 Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 which currently makes Abortion illegal except in circumstances deemed applicable. The new legislation makes abortion legal and allows women to make the choice by themselves with assistance from a health practitioner.
Paula Bennett (For, National): “I do believe in a woman’s right to choose. I do believe that we as parliamentarians have a responsibility to make that as safe as it possiblt can be for those that are in a situation where they are making some of the most traumatic and extreme decisions that they will have to make in their lifetime. We should be supporting them with legislation that does support them”
Maureen Pugh (Against, National): “I’m fucking useless” (she didn’t say this but like she might as well have said this)
Gerry Brownlee (Against, National): “I hope the select committee do a good job in getting it into a position that makes it more reasonable law – does not criminalie people who have to make that dreadful decision”
Aupito William Sio (For, Labour): I ask all of our communities to take the opportunity to engage with the select committee in a respectful manner. Tell the committee how we can help and support our women who have not been supported by their partners or families in their time of need with a pregnancy. Tell the committee how to improve this bill. Do you agree that we remove abortion being treated under the Crimes Act, as we’ve always done before, or do we want to treat the women who seek an abortion with love, care, and support?
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern (For, Labour): I’ve been in this Parliament for 10 years and even I have memory, as a brand-new MP, of sitting in a room with other female members of Parliament from the Labour Party discussing whether or not we thought the time was finally right for this debate. I reflect on how many other women from all over this Parliament will, at various times, have questioned whether or not the time was finally right. Well, to those women who may not be in this House this day to see this debate finally arrive, or, indeed, to those advocates who have been outside of this House studiously working and seeking support for there just to be the chance to have this vote, I want to commit this debate today to your work and your advocacy.
Louisa Wall (For, Labour): Tēnā koe e Te Māngai o Te Whare. Tēnā koutou katoa. Firstly, can I acknowledge Dame Margaret Sparrow. I’m not sure if she’s here today, but she has been a pioneer in this field, and I want to acknowledge the book that she wrote, Abortion Then and Now: New Zealand Abortion Stories from 1940 to 1980. I also want to acknowledge the leadership of our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and congratulate Ministers Little and Martin and the New Zealand Green Party for bringing this kaupapa to the House. It is a long time coming.
23 MPs voted against the Bill and a further 3 failed to vote.
The Abortion Legislation Bill is now at Select Committee stage. Submissions to this committee close on 19th September. Go to parliament.nz to make a submission.
Following the select committee stage, the bill will be considered, debated, changed and made more functional. It will then head to a second vote in the house. If your local electorate MP voted against the bill and you feel strongly on this, you can write them a letter or email them – be respectful, explain why this is important and hope that you are able to convince them to reconsider. If they don’t, remember this for the 2020 election. A vote against this bill is a vote against women having the right to make their own reproductive choices and that itself is a fundamental human right.