Mistake in abortion vote allows safe areas but no way of setting them up

The final stage of the Abortion reform Bill was debated in Parliament yesterday and last night, with Supplementary Order Paper amendments being voted on.  A late night mistake has resulted in an unintended change.

A David Seymour amendment to axe ‘safe areas’ from protests near where abortions are carried out are failed. But a stuff up removed the part of legislation allowing safe areas to be set up.

So safe areas will be allowed, but there is no way to set them up.

Stuff: Last minute mistake changes abortion law as Parliament accidentally passes amendment

A cross-party attempt to reform New Zealand’s abortion laws looked like it would emerge intact from a debate on proposed amendments until a dramatic last minute mistake axed one of its key provisions.

The amendments, known as Supplementary Order Papers or SOPs, were the subject of a lengthy debate that stretched from Tuesday afternoon to the early hours of Wednesday morning.

An attempt by ACT leader David Seymour to axe “safe areas” failed, but a last minute mistake by MPs supporting safe areas meant that safe areas were effectively nixed anyway, despite a definition for safe areas remaining in the bill.

Seymour proposed an amendment to remove safe areas from the bill. The bill initially allowed a safe areas to be established up to 150 metres around a place offering abortion services. It would be illegal to protest against abortions in these areas.

The intention was to prevent American-style protests where people getting abortions are harassed and intimidated before visiting clinics.

The first part of the amendment failed, but by a very tight margin, 59 votes to 56, however later in the night a second part to his amendment passed effectively by accident.

The second part of Seymour’s amendment was to delete parts of the bill that would give effect to the safe areas. It went to a voice vote, where MPs vote by saying “aye” and “no”, which it passed.

MPs then had an opportunity to call a conscience vote on the amendment as they had done for other amendments that night, but supporters of safe areas failed to do this, meaning the amendment passed. A late attempt by Green MP Jan Logie to save the provision failed.

This means that while safe areas remain in the legislation, the parts of the bill relating to establishing safe areas and making them function have been removed – effectively making it impossible to set one up.

This demonstrates a problem with long sittings dealing with a lot of amendments late in the legislative process. It isn’t a good way to form laws.

All the speeches and votes here: