Abortion legislation reaches Second Reading

Shortly the contentious legislation surrounding abortion laws will go through the Second Reading stage in Parliament. With 30 individual organizations having also signed an open letter supporting the legislation as it progresses through Parliament, including Amnesty International New Zealand, the high level of support for this contentious Bill of Parliament is considerable.

The legislation in question would enable women to voluntarily seek an abortion up to the 20 week mark of their pregnancy. At that point, they would be required to seek a statutory. The statutory test means a health practitioner will have to “reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate with regard to the pregnant woman’s physical and mental health, and well-being”.

There are obvious opponents such as Right to Life, Family First, and various Christian/Catholic organizations. Their members include people like Ken Orr, head of Right to Life. I assume that if they have not already done so, these organizations will come together just like the 30 that wrote in support of the legislation, but with the polar opposite intention in mind.

To be clear I support this legislation. Not because I am a murderer as the most ardent of the conservative lobby would have one believe. Not because I am a child hating monster.

I support this legislation because New Zealand has hugely outdated legislation concerning abortion, which does not recognize, nor support the autonomy, dignity and physical being of a woman. I support this legislation because it is far too restrictive in too many instances – whether it is a woman who and whose partner took contraceptive measures to prevent pregnancy during intercourse that failed; a woman who has been sexually violated; a woman who has developed potentially life threatening complications.

But most of all, I support this legislation simply because I understand and respect a woman’s right to control her body.

The legislation passed through the First Reading of Parliament 94-23 and was sent to the Select Committee which has received submissions on it.

New Zealand First asked for a binding referendum, to address the concerns of its more conservative members, but also to draw off support for National.

Most Labour Members of Parliament and all of the Green Party were in support of the legislation when it went through its First Reading. The more left leaning National Party, Members of Parliament such as Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye supported it as well When it goes before Parliament for the Second Reading it is likely to pass, but with significantly smaller numbers – my guess will be about 65 M.P.’s.

There is one more reading after the Second Reading before a law can be submitted for Royal Assent. That is the Third Reading and will be where M.P.’s sum up their take on the legislation before sending it to a final vote. If this legislation fails here, it will be a significant instance of stalling women’s basic rights in terms of one of the most important medical procedures they might ever undertake. But if it wins, New Zealand will have overhauled one of the more conservative national laws in the western hemisphere on abortion.

And that is to be encouraged.


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