Nation: Andrew Little on abortion law

The New Zealand Law Commission has made some suggestions on abortion law reform – see Law Commission – alternative approaches to abortion law overdue.

This morning on Newshub Nation (9:30 am) the Minister of Justice Andrew Little will be interviewed on this.

Law Commission – alternative approaches to abortion law overdue

Justice Minister Andrew Little seems intent on fixing archaic and unfit for purpose abortion laws this term. Good. About time.

Law Commission abortion law reform briefing received

Justice Minister Andrew Little received today the Law Commission’s briefing on alternative approaches to abortion law.

“Our abortion law is over forty years old, starts with the proposition that an abortion is a crime. In February, I asked the Law Commission for advice on treating abortion as a health matter could look like,” Andrew Little said.

“I would like to thank the Law Commission for its extensive work on the briefing paper. I asked the Commission to gather the public’s views, and they received comprehensive submissions,” said Andrew Little.

“I acknowledge that the subject of abortion is a personal one for each MP. I will be taking time to talk to my colleagues across all parties about the Law Commission’s briefing before progressing further,” Andrew Little said.

The Law Commission received just under 3,500 submissions from the public, as well as meeting with a range of health sector bodies in developing its briefing paper.

The Law Commission’s briefing examines what abortion law could look like if abortion was treated as a health issue. The paper outlines:

  • three models for when abortion is available
  • changes to:
    • the criminal aspects of abortion law
    • access to abortion services, where abortions are performed, and by whom
    • the oversight of abortion services
  • related issues, such as women’s informed consent, counselling services, and conscientious objection by health practitioners.

The Law Commission’s briefing paper is here.


This will go to a conscience vote, but surely well into the 21st century we should have sensible abortion laws.

The current law works in practice but it is demeaning for women.

Just about everyone uses some form of birth control these days. The world is badly overpopulated by humans.

Women who are not in a good position relationship, health or finance-wise are better deferring having a family until a better time.

I don’t see any practical difference between a women having say a couple of children then going onto birth control or her partner having a vasectomy, or a women having an abortion or two prior to having a couple of children and then relying on birth control. The end result is much the same.

 

Helen Clark asserts abortion issue doesn’t need a referendum

The resounding vote for women’s rights in the Irish abortion referendum has raised the positing that a referendum on abortion in New Zealand may bring our laws into the 21st century (if that’s what a majority wants).

But Helen Clark doesn’t think this is necessary – a bit ironic given her lack of action as Prime Minister.

A curious comment given that Helen Clark led the New Zealand Government for nine years without promoting any consultation or policy or legislation that address the archaic and largely ignored abortion law.

Governments and parties have proven to be very conservative on a number of important social issues, like abortion, cannabis and drug law reform, and euthanasia. Some may say gutless.

A push for referendums may be a way to push the Government to actually do something. Nothing much else has worked, apart from private members’ bills, so threatening to take some of their power (and give it to the people) might be what it needs to get them to actually do something rather than say they could have like Clark has.

And a referendum doesn’t take away the need for “Policy and legislation can be developed in a consultative way” – that is required with or without a referendum.

I’d be quite happy for the Government to just fix our demeaning abortion law and our disastrous drug laws, but if those changes were confirmed by popular vote it would strengthen their standing.

I think that euthanasia should go to referendum anyway.

Ireland abortion vote puts New Zealand law to shame

Ireland has just resoundingly voted to modernise their abortion law, giving women the choice the should have.

This highlights New Zealand’s shameful persistence with law that is not fit for purpose to the extent that it is virtually ignored in practice, although it forces women into a demeaning process.

We should add abortion to the referendum list for next year, along with personal use of cannabis and euthanasia.

The last Government was not interested in addressing the abortion anomaly.

Abortion was not addressed in either the Labour-NZ First or Labour-Green governing agreements.

However Jacinda Ardern campaigned against the current law – Abortion ‘shouldn’t be a crime’ (September 2017):

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says abortion should not be in the Crimes Act and she would change the law.

Access to abortion is governed by the Crimes Act 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977.

“It shouldn’t be in the Crimes Act. People need to be able to make their own decision. People need to be able to make their own decisions. I want women who want access to be able to have it as a right.”

At the same time Bill English supported the law as it is but also supported a conscience vote:

Prime Minster Bill English, a conservative Catholic, said he supported the law as it was and he would be opposed to liberalisation. He described the current set-up, where a woman has to get a certificate from two separate medical professionals saying she needed an abortion, was “broadly acceptable” and was working.

However, English said it would be a “conscience decision”, so his MP could vote freely on it.

Why not let the people vote on it?

February 2018: Labour moves to legalise abortion

Andrew Little surprised observers today when he revealed that a draft referral on reforming New Zealand’s abortion law had been circulated to New Zealand First and the Greens. Little said today that he received a letter from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after the coalition was formed directing him to begin the process of reforming the law.

Once the two parties give feedback, the referral will be sent to the Law Commission to make a recommendation.

New Zealand is not just out of step with modern law, it is also out of step with modern practices.

New Zealand is an outlier among OECD countries for the time it takes to get an abortion and the way abortions are provided to patients.

In New Zealand, a patient must be referred to two specialists to sign-off on the abortion. If one refuses, the woman may need to find a third specialist. The average time from referral to procedure is 25 days.

In other countries the it can take just a week from referral to procedure. This makes it more likely for New Zealand patients to require a surgical, rather than a medical abortion, as they have passed the nine week mark.

In New Zealand, only 15 percent of abortions are medical abortions. By contrast, 62 percent of abortions in the UK are medical abortions and 45 percent of abortions performed before nine weeks (two-thirds of the total number) in the United States are medical abortions.

Terry Bellamak, President of the Abortion Law Reform Association…

…said that she would like to see abortion wiped from the Crimes Act and the restrictive grounds for abortion abolished.

Currently, abortion can be granted on the grounds that the pregnancy is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother; that there is a substantial risk the child will be seriously handicapped; that the pregnancy is a result of incest; or that the woman is deemed to be “severely subnormal”.

Bellamak said she would like New Zealand’s law to be reformed along the lines of Canada.

“Canada has absolutely no abortion laws and no regulations around abortion. They simply trust women,” she said.

Andrew Little refused to give much detail on what reform might look like…

…but suggested it might be broader than taking abortion out of the Crimes Act.

“There are more issues than just what’s in the Crimes Act … it’s also the hurdles that have been put in the way of women who are faced with making that decision”.

The vote would be a conscience vote, meaning MPs would be given the ability to vote freely without following a party line.

Why not a people vote, in a referendum along with cannabis and euthanasia?

Ardern and Little support reform.

Greens have actively campaigned on reform: Abortion – it’s time to decriminalise

The Green Party supports the decriminalisation of abortion because we trust women to make decisions that are best for them and their whānau/family. We want to ensure equal access to all potential options are available to pregnant women.

We want to change the abortion laws because:

  • The fact that 99% of abortions are approved on ‘mental health’ grounds reveals the dishonesty of the current legal situation.
  • The time taken to see two consultants means abortions happen later in the pregnancy. This is more dangerous for the woman, and it makes it difficult to access medical abortions (those which are conducted using medicine rather than surgery), which can only be performed at under 9 weeks’ gestation.
  • Rape (sexual violation) is not grounds for abortion under NZ law.
  • To reduce the stigma and judgement that happens over the reasons a woman chooses to have an abortion (e.g. rape being seen as more justified grounds for abortion than poverty).
  • Abortion’s continuing criminal status helps reinforce geographical variations in access to abortion services.
  • The current laws are discriminatory towards people with disabilities.

We also want to change the presumption that currently exists within medical culture and wider society, encouraged by the wording in the legislation, that if there is a significant disability diagnosis then an abortion is assumed to be desirable.

While English supported an MP conscience vote on abortion Simon Bridges could be different. In February when he became National leader:

Bridges told Mediaworks abortion should be “rare, safe and legal and I think the emphasis there is on rare. I think that’s where the vast majority of New Zealanders are”.

If that’s his view I think Bridges is out of touch with new Zealand.

Vice have noted he: “Voted to appoint a doctor strongly opposed to abortion to the Abortion Supervisory Committee.”

In principle NZ First supports people deciding things by referendum. In March last year Tracey Martin pointed this out in Politically, Abortion change rests with NZ First so what does that look like?

What’s our view on abortion legislation?

Abortions should be safe, legal and rare.

We have a policy of citizen-initiated binding referendum, held at the same time as a general election – a policy we have had for 23 years – this is one of those issues for such a referendum. It should not be decided by temporarily empowered politicians but by the public.

We need a 12 to 18 month conversation around this issue and then let the people have their say.

Topics that we would be suggest be associated with this discussion would include: Moving the issue from the Criminal Act to the Health Act, ensuring women get the best possible advice, getting more research into “why” women find themselves needing to seek this service and how can we assist them to avoid having to seek this service.

It makes more sense to me to have a referendum a year before the election. It separates issues decided from the politics of general elections, and is a very good way of engaging the public in democracy.

 

66.4% vote yes to amend abortion law in ‘quiet revolution ‘ in Ireland

The final result in the Irish referendum on abortion:

The Eight Amendment to the Republic of ireland’s constitution was introduced after a referendum in 1983. It “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right“.

Just one constituency, Donegal, voted against change with No 51.9% to Yes 48.1%.

The next closest was Cavan-Monaghan with No 44.5% to yes 55.5%.

The Yes vote in the ten Dublin constituencies ranged from 73.1% to 78.5%.

BBC –  Ireland abortion referendum: PM hails ‘quiet revolution’

The Irish prime minister has hailed his country’s “quiet revolution” as early results point to a “resounding” vote for overturning the abortion ban.

Leo Varadkar was speaking after exit polls suggested a landslide vote in favour of reforming the law.

“The people have spoken. They have said we need a modern constitution for a modern country,” he said.

Mr Varadkar, who campaigned in favour of liberalisation, said: “What we’ve seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland over the past 20 years.”

The taoiseach (prime minister) added that Irish voters “trust and respect women to make the right choices and decisions about their own healthcare”.

BBC – Timeline: Ireland and abortion

1861 – Abortion is first banned in Ireland in 1861 by the Offences Against the Person Act, and stays in place after Irish independence.

1983 – The Eighth Amendment to the Republic’s constitution, or Article 40.3.3, is introduced after a referendum.

1992 – The X case – a 4-year-old suicidal rape victim is initially prevented by the courts from travelling to England to terminate her pregnancy. The ruling prompts demonstrations by both anti-abortion and pro-choice campaigners across Ireland, in New York and London. However, the ruling is later overturned by Ireland’s Supreme Court. It says the credible threat of suicide is grounds for an abortion in Ireland.

In November that year, as a result of the X case and the judgement in the Supreme Court appeal, the government put forward three possible amendments to the constitution.

The Thirteenth Amendment said the abortion ban would not limit freedom of travel from Ireland to other countries for a legal abortion. It passed Yes 62.39%, No 37.61%.

The Fourteenth Amendment said Irish citizens had the freedom to learn about abortion services in other countries. It passed Yes 59.88% to No 40.12%.

The Twelfth Amendment proposed that the possibility of suicide was not a sufficient threat to justify an abortion. It failed No 65.35% to Yes 34.65%.

Turnout 68%.

2002 – Another referendum, asking if the threat of suicide as a ground for legal abortion should be removed. Yes 49.58%, No 50.52% (turnout 42.89%).

2010 – After three women take a case against Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights rules the state has failed to provide clarity on the legal availability of abortion in circumstances where the mother’s life is at risk.

2013 – Abortion legislation is again amended to allow terminations under certain conditions – the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is signed into law. It legalises abortion when doctors deem that a woman’s life is at risk due to medical complications, or at risk of taking her life. It also introduces a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for having or assisting in an unlawful abortion.

2015 – The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommends a referendum on abortion, saying it is concerned at Ireland’s “highly restrictive legislation” and calls for a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

2016 – The United Nations Human Rights Committee says that Ireland’s ban on abortion subjected a woman carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

2017 – A Citizens’ Assembly votes to recommend the introduction of unrestricted access to abortion. It votes 64% to 36% in favour of having no restrictions in early pregnancy.

2018 – In March, Irish Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy signs an order to set the date for an abortion referendum.

And in big reversals of the 1992 referendum and Twelfth Amendment vote in 2002 the people of Ireland have voted resoundingly to modernise their abortion law.


New Zealand’s abortion law is still archaic but it is virtually ignored in practice. Time this is properly addressed – perhaps we should have an abortion referendum here too.

Irish vote on abortion

Labour moves to legalise abortion

New Zeasland’s laws that cover abortion are a sham – they are effectively largely ignored, although they make women go through a demeaning process.

But they may soon be addressed by Parliament, something that’s long overdue. Past governments have chosen to sweep the sham under a big rug.

Newsroom: Labour moves to legalise abortion

Andrew Little surprised observers today when he revealed that a draft referral on reforming New Zealand’s abortion law had been circulated to New Zealand First and the Greens. Little said today that he received a letter from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after the coalition was formed directing him to begin the process of reforming the law. Once the two parties give feedback, the referral will be sent to the Law Commission to make a recommendation.

Abortion in New Zealand is a crime under the Crimes Act, although the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act of 1977 allows a woman to have an abortion if she meets certain criteria and proves her need to two physicians.

Critics argue that the current legislation is out of date, inequitable, and the cause of unnecessary distress.

Currently, abortion can be granted on the grounds that the pregnancy is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother; that there is a substantial risk the child will be seriously handicapped; that the pregnancy is a result of incest; or that the woman is deemed to be “severely subnormal”.

In 1980, a medication called RU-486 was developed allowing non-invasive medical abortions to take place for the first time. In 1987, France became the first country to legalise medical abortions.

Thirty years later New Zealand still has unfit for purpose law.

New Zealand’s law, written three years before RU-486 was developed, stipulates that abortion must take place in a clinic. This provision, intended to prevent dangerous back alley abortions, means that patients must travel to the clinic twice, simply to take a pill. For patients in rural areas, this can be a long and expensive exercise.

Dr Christine Roke, National Medical Advisor to Family Planning, said the added steps were a barrier to best practice.

“It adds time and it adds cost,” said Roke.

New Zealand is an outlier among OECD countries for the time it takes to get an abortion and the way abortions are provided to patients.

In New Zealand, a patient must be referred to two specialists to sign-off on the abortion. If one refuses, the woman may need to find a third specialist. The average time from referral to procedure is 25 days.

In New Zealand, only 15 percent of abortions are medical abortions. By contrast, 62 percent of abortions in the UK are medical abortions and 45 percent of abortions performed before nine weeks (two-thirds of the total number) in the United States are medical abortions.

We are a long way behind the times on this.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed her personal view that should abortion be taken out of the Crimes Act so it is likely that this will form some part of the reform.

On Tuesday, Andrew Little refused to give much detail on what reform might look like, but suggested it might be broader than taking abortion out of the Crimes Act.

“There are more issues than just what’s in the Crimes Act … it’s also the hurdles that have been put in the way of women who are faced with making that decision,” he said.

The vote would be a conscience vote, meaning MPs would be given the ability to vote freely without following a party line. Reform is likely to be supported by the Prime Minister, liberal members of her party and the Green Party.

It would also require support from some NZ First and/or National MPs if it is to progress New Zealand abortion laws and practices into the 21st century.

 

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.

 

 

Complaint of misrepresentation of Ardern on abortion upheld

A complaint about misleading election advertising that misrepresented Jacinda Ardern’s views and Labour policy on abortion has been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

ODT (NZME): ASA rules Ardern Facebook ad misleading

A complaint against a sponsored Facebook post making it appear Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would end child poverty by having children aborted has been upheld.

The Make New Zealand Great Again Party posted a picture of Ardern on the social media website with the statement “My Labour Party will end child poverty through abortion. No children. No poverty”.

The statement was in quotation marks, which prompted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Quotation marks made it seem as if Ardern had actually said those words, they said.

“[Ardern] has never made the statement that this picture attempts to say she has made.

“This misrepresentation of Jacinda Ardern is clearly factually incorrect and misleading to the viewers of the advertisement.”

The ASA’s complaints board ruled agreed, and said there was no evidence provided to support the impression made that Ardern was being directly quoted.

It breached three parts of the code of ethics and the complaint was therefore upheld by the board.

When advertisements are classed as advocacy, expression of opinion is allowed provided the expression of opinion is robust and clearly distinguishable from fact and the identity of the advertiser was clear.

The sponsored post for the Make New Zealand Great Again Party also said: “New Zealand Labour Party will literally kill child poverty! But remember they are all about ‘the children’, nothing about parental responsibility!”

There were other misrepresentations on abortion during the campaign. NZH on 11 September: Labour leader Jacinda Ardern tackles ‘smear campaign’ on abortion stance

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says she’s the victim of a deliberate misinformation campaign about her stance on abortion.

The question of where she drew the line was raised during her interview on this morning’s Newstalk ZB leaders breakfast segment with Larry Williams.

Family First NZ’s Bob McCoskrie asked if Ardern would personally endorse Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand’s preferred new law, based on a Canadian model that would seek to legalise abortion on demand up till birth.

Ardern did not shy away from the question but used it to clear up what she said had been misleading information about her views.

“There has been a huge amount of misinformation and my image has been used inappropriately with that misinformation.

“Yes I think abortion should come out of the Crimes Act. That does not mean for a moment that I am proposing what has been claimed, that you should be able to have on demand abortion till birth.”

What Ardern said she wanted was to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and have it put within a regulated context that made sure it was safe.

She categorically denied supporting abortion till birth.

“They have said till 40 weeks, which is wrong, which is wrong. We have time periods already set out in law, I’m not proposing changes to that. I’m proposing it comes out of the Crimes Act.”

Current abortion practices sidestep the law, but requires women (and girls) to make non-genuine statements of harm. And it doesn’t always allow abortions –  in the past decade close to 1500 women have been refused an abortion by the state.

Hundreds of “not justified abortion” certificates were handed out to pregnant Kiwi women in 2016.

Even as the overall abortion rate has trended down since 2010, the number of women told their abortion would not be “justified” has remained steady.

Abortion is technically a crime in New Zealand. Two certified medical practitioners must deem the abortion medically necessary or justified for it to be legal, but in practice the law is routinely subverted by both doctors and patients.

Last year, 252 “not justified abortion” certificates were issued. Close to 1500 have been handed out this decade.

Legal grounds to justify abortion include danger to physical or mental health of the mother and the possibility of having a mentally disabled child. Rape is not legally grounds for an abortion.

From a leaders’ debate on 4 September – Jacinda Ardern: Abortion ‘shouldn’t be a crime’

During the Newshub debate on Monday night, Ardern said she would change the law if she became Prime Minister.

“It shouldn’t be in the Crimes Act. People need to be able to make their own decision.”

“People need to be able to make their own decisions,” said Ardern.

“I want women who want access to be able to have it as a right.”

More from Newshub: Abortion law-change would come down to conscience vote – Jacinda Ardern

On Tuesday, Ms Ardern told the AM Show a conscience vote, where MPs can vote based on their views rather than along party lines, would still allow MPs to keep their personal viewpoints.

“It will still be a conscience vote. We’ll draft the bill but, for instance, Bill English would still be able to vote with his conscience.”

She says she expects some of those within her own caucus would also oppose the bill, but thinks “there will be a majority of parliament that think, actually in 2017, women shouldn’t face being criminals for accessing their own rights”.

“That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have regulation that sits around it but we just don’t think it should be in the Crimes Act.”

Under current law abortion is a criminal act, except that women can obtain an abortion at under 20 weeks’ gestation under the following scenarios:

  • if the pregnancy is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother
  • if there’s a substantial risk that the child would be “seriously handicapped”
  • if the child is a result of incest
  • if the women is “severely subnormal”.

It is time that the law was brought into line with common practice and supported the rights of those who become pregnant.

While abortions are fairly freely available in practice the number of them are decreasing.

NZH: Abortion rate drops to lowest in 25 years

The general abortion rate – abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 – was 13.5 per 1000 women in 2016, down from 14.2 in 2015.

Statistics NZ reported that the abortion rates for younger women have fallen significantly in recent years whereas the rate has stayed the same for older women.

Women aged 20-24 have more abortions than any other age group, accounting for about 28 per cent of abortions in 2016.

However, the abortion rate for women in this age group dropped from a peak of 41 abortions per 1000 women in 2003, to 21 per 1000 in 2016.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said the drop was partially due to the increase in women using long acting reversible contraception like the implant and the IUD. They were more effective as they weren’t as exposed to human error.

She also thought youth were getting good access to sexual education information and services and choosing to wait longer before their first sexual experience which helped reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Abortion by the numbers

  • ​In 2016, there were 12,823 induced abortions, 332 fewer than the previous year.
  • Nearly 18 % of known pregnancies ended in an abortion.
  • The highest recorded abortion ratio was in 2003, with 25% known pregnancies ending in abortion.
  • Most abortions, 64%, were a woman’s first abortion and 57% of abortions were performed before the 10th week of the pregnancy.

So reforming the abortion laws would be timely and looks unlikely to result in an increase in the number of abortions.

Abortion law reform

This morning The Nation asked Is it time for abortion law reform?

The Nation has spoken to a number of women about their experiences. Some didn’t want to be identified.

The common theme is that seeking an abortion in New Zealand is a drawn-out process that adds stress and discomfort to an already fraught situation.

“It’s unnecessarily complicated, it’s out of date,” says Dame Margaret Sparrow, who has been advocating for abortion law reform for decades.

“I think it’s demeaning to women because women can’t make the decision for themselves – the decision has to be made by two certifying consultants.

“And also, I don’t think we need grounds for abortion – 98 percent are done on the grounds of mental health. I think that’s ridiculous.”

Under New Zealand law, abortion is a crime. But the law outlines a few scenarios where women can obtain an abortion at under 20 weeks’ gestation:

  • if the pregnancy is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother
  • if there’s a substantial risk that the child would be “seriously handicapped”
  • if the child is a result of incest
  • if the women is “severely subnormal”.

Handicapped and subnormal are not terms you hear much any more.

The way abortion law works in practice in New Zealand is outdated and outlandish, demanding dishonesty from women seeking abortions as well as from doctors rubber stamping them – if the woman is lucky, otherwise it is degrading.

When a woman decides to seek an abortion, she first has to get a referral from her doctor. She has to undergo a number of tests, including an ultrasound.

She’ll see two doctors, called certifying consultants, who give the sign-off for the termination.

She’ll also be offered counselling. In some areas it’s compulsory.

Ms Ruscoe said for her, the process took a month.

“I had pretty much every side-effect it is possible to get. It made it really difficult to work, really difficult for me to keep it from people around me. Emotionally it was really difficult, it was stressful, it was pretty much the longest month of my life.”

For A, the process was similar.

“It was extremely tiring. It took every ounce of energy to be able to continue to just go through my day-to-day without letting everything go. That was hard.”

And a bad experience with a social worker made it much more difficult.

“It felt like I was at the mercy of everybody else and their opinions, and what they thought was best.

“It is my body and I made the best decision I could at the time and I don’t regret it.

The law needs to properly reflect modern public attitudes and practices. But MPs and parties don’t seem keen on doing anything about it.

But the Government says change isn’t necessary.

“We’ve made it quite clear it’s not something we’re planning to review at the moment,” said Minister of Justice Amy Adams.

“Our main concern is that the law is working as Parliament intended, and I haven’t’ seen any indication that that clumsy language is affecting its operation. That’s the critical thing for me.”

The whole way it operates is more than clumsy, it’s crazy – women just about have to claim they are crazy to get an abortion.

National isn’t the only political party apparently ducking for cover. The Labour Party wants a Law Commission review of abortion law, but justice spokesperson and deputy leader Jacinda Ardern declined to be interviewed for this story.

Her spokesperson says that’s because it’s a conscience issue rather than a party one.

That is, doesn’t want to do anything about it.

The Greens and ACT support decriminalising abortion. The Green Party’s Jan Logie says changing the law isn’t a topline priority, but it’s a fundamental human rights issue.

“When we have a law that is being loosely interpreted, we can feel grateful but we can’t feel secure. I really think that is another call for us to act and make sure our law reflects what we want.”

‘Not a topline priority’ means they won’t do anything about it. That’s a political way of appearing to support something but not doing anything.

The national government won’t do anything, and no one else is trying to do anything about.

There are no current Members’ Bills in the system on it.

Women are poorly served by their Parliamentary representatives on this.