Government appointed committee criticises abortion law

The Government appointed The Abortion Supervisory Committee reported to Parliament on Thursday and slammed the current laws covering abortion, saying they are an indictment and “some parts of the language is actually quite offensive, referring to people as subnormal”.

NZ Herald: Not updating abortion law ‘an indictment’, supervising committee tells MPs

The Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) made its annual appearance at Parliament’s justice and electoral committee today, reporting on how abortion law has been managed.

While calling for the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act, passed in 1977, to be updated, the ASC made clear the larger issue of more significant changes was a question for the public and Parliament.

Dame Linda Holloway, ASC chairwoman, told the committee that the legislation’s wording was causing “enormous administrative problems” for the ASC and health practitioners.

The law was not written in inclusive language, Dame Linda said.

“In fact, some parts of the language is actually quite offensive, referring to people as subnormal, for example. Really it is an indictment that we have statute like that on the books that is not being corrected.”

The abortion law referred to the “operating doctor”. Now many women who received abortions were medically induced.

“There is no operating doctor. Again, that can cause lots of challenges and hassle,” Dame Linda said.

What’s the chances of this being addressed by Parliament?

Asked by Labour’s Jacinda Ardern if the committee had a view on whether abortion remaining under the Crimes Act should be reviewed as part of the redraft, she said it held no opinion on that question.

“We believe that major reform of the Act is something for society and for Parliament.”

The strong criticism of aspects of abortion law comes amidst increasing political debate about the issue, with Labour, the Green Party and Act Party all calling for change.

Labour leader Andrew Little has called Prime Minister Bill English “deeply conservative” on abortion law, and says he believes the legislation needs to be reviewed and upgraded, and abortion should not be on the Crimes Act.

However, he will not commit to introducing legislation if in Government; Labour policy is for the law to first be reviewed by the Law Commission.

English said recently that while he opposes abortion he thinks the current law is working adequately. Under his leadership National are not going to initiate any changes.

But, while Labour are making noises about needing change, they also seem reluctant to do anything about it themselves.

The Green Party has already made abortion reform a party issue, rather than a conscience issue.

The Greens’ policy would decriminalise abortion. Terminations after 20 weeks would be allowed only when the woman would otherwise face serious permanent injury to her health or in the case of severe fetal abnormalities.

Its women’s spokeswoman, Jan Logie, said today that the ASC was clearly telling the government that the legislation had not stood the test of time.

Asked if she would introduce a private member’s bill, Logie said none would pass before the election and the national conversation would probably happen after September’s election.

So nothing will happen before the election. Any attempt to address the inadequate law that is being effectively ignored is likely to depend on who forms the next Government, and what sort of priority parties like Labour are prepared to put on reform.

It is likely to depend on the lottery of the Members’ Bill ballot should Greens submit a bill.



  1. PDB

     /  March 17, 2017

    It appears the outdated issue is largely a non-issue in terms of officials applying common sense nowadays when dealing with the act – yes it does need an update in terms of wording but it isn’t urgent and the MSM seem to be just trying to create a ‘problem’ for English based on his religious beliefs………

    • Auto_Immune

       /  March 17, 2017

      Common sense, for the most part. There are still issues with timing and access, particularly in smaller communities. There are also the legal challenges to current practice that crop up, based on how the legislation is written.

      But totally agree that they’re trying to create a problem for Bill that never existed before.

  2. Brown

     /  March 17, 2017

    “The Greens’ policy would decriminalise abortion. Terminations after 20 weeks would be allowed only when the woman would otherwise face serious permanent injury to her health or in the case of severe fetal abnormalities.”

    That means abortion on demand at any point in the pregnancy because “‘health” is subjective. Its just like celebrants not having to marry gays.

    • Gezza

       /  March 17, 2017

      Oops, soz. See below. Unless you’re gone again.

  3. Gezza

     /  March 17, 2017

    Don’t understand your last point. Can’t see the connection.

  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  March 17, 2017

    The law was written by a couple of Catholics. Don’t expect another to change it.

  5. Griff

     /  March 17, 2017

    Conservative Bill.
    It is disturbing that the leader of our country believes magically transmogrified crackers and wine is the flesh of a man dead for two thousand years.
    I don’t know what is worse .
    Believing in the the magic.
    Or eating something you believe to be human flesh.

    It is a woman body .
    Her right to decide.
    Many who seek to remove this right also don’t want to pay for the resulting offspring.

    • The Holy Mysteries are none of your business. There’s some irony for you.

      It really is not a woman’s body. Tired old argument is old and tired.

      Your last point is untrue generally, but also specifically in the case of the RCC. And even if it was true, so what? If I believe infanticide is wrong, you wanting your kids dead does not financially oblige me to them. If that’s true for born children, it’s also true for unborn ones.

      • Gezza

         /  March 18, 2017

        The Holy Mysteries are nonsense. This is about real bodies and whose they are.

        • Indeed it is. In some ways I’m glad Griff brought it up. There are parallels, and they naturally merge when we consider the Evangelismos (Annunciation), where Christ becomes incarnate within the womb of Mary, the Theotokos. Is a thing *just* a thing, or is it something more? Is what is seen all there is, or are there mysterious elements imbued? This is ultimately what we ask of all lives when we asses their value.

          • Gezza

             /  March 18, 2017

            There is what is real, what is not, what we know, and what we don’t know.
            I was raised an RC. The Bible is full of magic & fake news. Jesus had nothing to say on this topic.

            • I’m not sure which topic you mean. In the case of the Holy Mysteries, a large part of John 6 is devoted to Christ talking about them. In the case of abortion, the Didache, a 1st Century decree of Christ’s Apostles, states that “you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten”.

            • Gezza

               /  March 18, 2017

              My apologies, Blair. I should have asked you to clarify what you mean & include as a list the “Holy Mysteries”.

              Decrees of Jesus’ apostles are where they start to make the rules.