Abortion law reform on the table

In New Zealand it’s fairly easy to get a safe abortion, but to do so it’s necessary to claim harm that may be more fabricated than fact.

During the election campaign Jacinda Ardern said she would shift abortion out of the Crimes Act, something that’s long overdue. She said…

“…there will be a majority of Parliament that think, actually in 2017, women shouldn’t face being criminals for accessing their own rights”.

In contrast then prime Minister Bill English said the current sham was “broadly satisfactory” and didn’t need changing.

Now Minister of Justice Andrew Little  is starting a process to look at how to change the law.

Stuff:  Government takes first steps towards abortion law reform

Abortion is a polarising issue with laws that haven’t changed in 40 years. It became an election issue last year when Jacinda Ardern stated in a fiery leaders’ debate that she would shift abortion out of the Crimes Act, where it has been since 1977.

Justice Minister Andrew Little told Stuff this week that Labour wants to “modernise” the laws and see abortion treated as a health issue – not a criminal one.

That means he will soon write to the Law Commission to get advice on the best process for doing so.

Significantly more people support change than oppose it.

In December, Family First commissioned a poll of 1013 New Zealanders found 52 per cent of people generally support abortion while 29 per cent are opposed.

Interestingly, 53 per cent of those who generally support abortion think the time limit for getting one should be less than the current 20 weeks stated in the Crimes Act.

That may depend on how the time limit question was asked. I think that most people would ideally prefer a shorter time frame, but most would also probably support longer times in special circumstances – such as when the mother’s life was in danger.

When, as seems likely, the law change comes to be voted on in Parliament, it will see politicians from either side of the aisle with contrasting views.

National leader English has previously called the current setup “broadly satisfactory”.

His caucus isn’t united in that view though, for example, Nikki Kaye has called the current law “archaic”.

National’s justice spokeswoman Amy Adams told Stuff reforming abortion laws “hasn’t been a focus of the National Party” and she’d want to see proposed changes before commenting further.

‘Not a focus’ is politician speak for avoiding addressing an issue that should be dealt with. It has also been an excuse used, ironically, by Andrew Little when he was Labour leader and pulled a Member’s Bill on euthanasia (taken over by David Seymour, drawn from the ballot and now before Parliament).

Similarly Ardern has previously said she expected some of her own caucus would oppose a bill proposing changes to the law.

When it comes to a vote in parliament it should be a conscience issue. Some MPs are likely to put their own views ahead of the views of their constituency, but that’s how things have always worked. But if the time is right to fix a fudging of current law then Parliament should have enough votes to sort it out.

 

 

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43 Comments

  1. chrism56

     /  January 21, 2018

    To be fair to MPs, they are on a hiding to nothing with any proposals for abortion law reform. No matter what they do, there will be a very vocal group opposing them. The protests get very nasty very quickly. And MPs being humans generally don’t like controversy, especially one with no “solution”.
    The present laws might be a sham, but they more or less work without the problems that other countries have. It is easy to say things should be fixed. It is a lot harder to come up with a solution that even just a real majority would agree on.

    Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  January 21, 2018

    The present law was an archaic sham when it was introduced by Catholics to placate their Church. It is demeaning to women as is their religion.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  January 21, 2018

      Isn’t abortion ‘demeaning’ to unborn babies ?

      I have seen dead babies. One was a miscarriage-it was small enough to lie in a little stainless steel bowl, one of those kidney shaped ones. It had everything, it was a tiny, complete baby. It was so small that it could have lain on a hand with room to spare.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  January 21, 2018

        It was also the age of babies who are killed by abortion. I would imagine that anyone who’d seen this baby would think again about whether abortion is all right.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  January 21, 2018

          It isn’t the body but the mind that counts, Kitty. Otherwise why would you think it is ok to withdraw life support from a brain dead living corpse.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  January 21, 2018

            That is a different issue. The person has had their life-they can’t go on living without artificial support and no hospital would let them stay on it indefinitely. The baby has its life ahead of it. It is not just part of the body like tonsils or an appendix.

            Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  January 21, 2018

            Sometimes it could go on “living” but food/fluid is withheld to end its “life”.

            If you are going to claim potential future life then you have to find an arbitrary reason to discard all the unfertilized eggs and wasted sperm that G thinks are irrelevant.

            Reply
  3. Chuck Bird

     /  January 21, 2018

    Imagine Cindy 8 months pregnant getting up in Parliament saying my body – my choice.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  January 21, 2018

      Why ever not? The essence of choice is that all options are available.

      Reply
    • Griff

       /  January 21, 2018

      Imagine a conservative using straw man arguments in the abortion debate.
      No one is suggesting unrestricted abortion up to eight months.

      Imagine a country were we stop the charade and acknowledged in law what is presently the reality.
      Abortion on demand as of right in the first trimester.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  January 21, 2018

        Killing a baby on demand doesn’t sound so palatable somehow-but that’s what it is.

        Why not kill it at any stage ? Isn’t it the mother’s right to kill it ? Why not make child killing legal-it’s absurd to be able to kill one at one age annd not another.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  January 21, 2018

          A man who refused to join the army using the ‘my body, my choice’ in a time of war would have been imprisoned.

          Reply
        • Griff

           /  January 21, 2018

          A first trimester fetus is a potential baby.
          It has no capability for independent life.
          As such it is still a part of the woman carrying it.
          I do not believe anyone but the woman whose body it is should have a say.
          Abortion should be under health legislation not criminal law.
          Our present actual practice is fit for purpose It just needs the law updated to reflect what already is and remove the criminal aspect.

          Abortion procedures
          Timeframes
          less than 9 weeks pregnant
          You can have the abortion pill or a minor surgical procedure (usually awake)

          between 9 and 14 weeks pregnant
          You can have an abortion with a minor surgical procedure (usually awake)

          Between 14 and 19 weeks pregnant
          You can have a surgical abortion under general anaesthesia (asleep)

          More than 14 weeks and have a fetal abnormality
          You can have an early induction of labour

          20 to 24 weeks pregnant
          You may be able to travel to Australia for a surgical abortion (strict criteria apply)

          http://abortion.org.nz/abortion-procedures
          Surgical abortion under general anaesthesia between 14 and 19 weeks hides the fact that the number of procedures and places you can get the procedure are very restricted.
          You need a referral to one or two clinics and get on a prioritized and restricted waiting list. If your abortion is a life style choice rather than a necessity it is unlikely you will get the procedure now.

          Change abortion to health not the crimes act.
          Doctors and woman are not criminals , Abortion is not a crime.
          Recognize abortion on demand up to 14 weeks.
          Attempt to insure we have the legislative framework around later term abortion that restricts its use to cases that are medically justified…..

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  January 21, 2018

            I can’t see how anyone who has seen a dead baby-whether a miscarriage or stillbirth or one that has died-can think that abortion is all right. Certainly not as a lifestyle choice.

            Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  January 21, 2018

            I can’t see why anyone could think that someone other than the mother should decide whether she should carry a pregnancy.

            Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  January 21, 2018

          The simple criteria is that it is the mother’s choice until it is viable without her, Kitty. Otherwise whose choice do you think it is? God’s? He did the miscarriage.

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  January 21, 2018

            I will never agree that abortion is not killing.

            The father has no say in the fate of his unborn child, but he is legally obliged to pay for it even if he didn’t want it and was tricked into having it.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  January 21, 2018

              I agree with your second point but not your first other that in the general sense that we do an awful lot of killing in the course of surviving and living. And most fertilised eggs that “die” do so naturally.

            • Gezza

               /  January 21, 2018

              A father tricked into becoming one or made one by accident & forced to pay for it when it is delivered if he didn’t want it is a separate issue.

              A woman choosing to abort a foetus before it is viable outside her is exercising her choice to not permit it to become viable without her. The father only impregnated her. He doesn’t have to have his body put through an unwanted pregnancy.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 21, 2018

              That is not the baby’s fault. Calling it a foetus distances it a bit-but it’s still a baby.

            • Gezza

               /  January 21, 2018

              Whether semantically it is a baby depends on what precise definition you want to adopt. I don’t consider it yet a fully developed viable human being.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 21, 2018

              What is someone who has body organs, finger and toenails, sex organs, a brain and everything else, if not a human being ?

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 21, 2018

              Babies and small children can’t survive alone, but killing one is considered to be murder.

            • Gezza

               /  January 21, 2018

              Babies and small children can survive outside the mother’s womb & others can take care of them. That is the difference. The further backward you go in foetal development the further away you get from that situation. I understand your position, but I do not agree with it when it comes to a woman having the right to choose to abort a non-externally foetus.

              And although I have internal conflicts when it gets to debate over when the foetus these days might be externally viable outside the womb, I don’t get to go through pregnancy, so I’m not even convinced I should really presume to have any say in the matter.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 21, 2018

              They can’t survive without help.

            • Gezza

               /  January 21, 2018

              * non-externally *viable* foetus.

      • Chuck Bird

         /  January 21, 2018

        Griff, do you mean no MP is suggesting abortion on demand till eight months? We do not know the view of all MPs.

        Reply
  4. David

     /  January 21, 2018

    Given Labour isnt polling all that well and neither is Winstons lot so its a risky strategy for very few measurable gains.
    Seeing as you can pretty much get one on demand now with rightly some impartial questioning I cant see any other outcome than a tightening of the criteria and some very upset people on the fringes.

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  January 21, 2018

      Hardly as bizarre as Labour’s last intervention with a Royal Commission into abortion and contraception run by a Catholic judge and then an Act drafted by two Catholic ministers.

      Reply
  5. artcroft

     /  January 21, 2018

    I believe the current law in draft from Andrew Little is based on Labour’s Legalise Pot Law. Therefore under the new law (in draft) it is legal for a woman to terminate her pregnancy but the person performing the abortion is breaking the law and open to prosecution. Little was quoted as saying he was “pleased” with his teams efforts but recognised the need for improvements in certain aspects.
    “Perhaps the Greens can put forward another Private Members Bill that actually makes sense” he said. “Something sane people and not just Labour MP’s can vote for”.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  January 21, 2018

      Tackiest irrelevant comparison I’ve ever seen.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  January 21, 2018

        Calling abortion murder is also an irrelevant comparison.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  January 21, 2018

          Not to some people, & although I disagree with them I can understand their angst.

          Reply
            • Gezza

               /  January 21, 2018

              I looked into the procedure involved in late term abortions during the heated arguments over Hillary Clinton’s supposed position on it Alan. Late term abortions of viable foetuses are not easy for me to dismiss. I still consider it the woman’s right to choose, so for me there’s a grey area over where the line is in foetal development beyond which I’m uncomfortable about abortion, and would maybe prefer to at least ask if they would consider a caesarian for adoption. There’s a shortage of babies for adoption.

            • Gezza

               /  January 21, 2018

              BUT at the moment I don’t believe on demand late term adoptions are allowed here so it’s not an issue I need to be concerned about. They are done at the time before the foetus is viable as I understand it.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  January 21, 2018

              Hence my criteria of whether the foetus is viable without the mother.

    • Gezza

       /  January 21, 2018

      Wonder which was the original photo, if any

      Reply
      • Pickled Possum

         /  January 21, 2018

        Gez that’s the Occupy Wall Street lady and one pregnant woman was pepper spray and lost her baby … is the policeman guilty of murder? No he wasn’t.

        Reply

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