Abortion no longer a crime in NZ after historic vote in Parliament

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Parliament has voted 68-51 tonight in favour to decriminalise abortion and remove it from the Crimes Act. 

The  Abortion Legislation Bill  will remove the statutory test for a person who is less than 20 weeks pregnant and allow a woman to self-refer to an abortion provider. 

Heated speeches were delivered by MPs for and against, during the third and final reading of the bill. It will now be signed off by the Governor-General to become law. 

Labour MP Marja Lubeck told the House she had an "overwhelming" amount of women contact her after her speech during the first reading, "when I spoke about how I was given the dignity and freedom to choose for myself whether to continue my unplanned and unwanted pregnancy or get an abortion". 

"Many speak of the years and sometimes even a lifetime of carrying a burden of secrecy and shame. Many have approached me expressing a sense of relief and power to share their own experience for the very first time. I found that extremely humbling.

"It is not a good reason to stick with offensive, archaic, anti-choice legislation just because there are people out there with a loud voice, or saying that no woman ever got convicted."

National's Andrew Bayly told the House he would not be supporting the bill despite that he did "not accept, under any circumstances, that there should be criminalisation of a woman who chooses to have an abortion".

"I'm concerned about young women, and I mean women who could possibly be minors, having an abortion that is, in this case, allowed without the knowledge of their parents or guardians.

"The second issue I have concern with is around the permissive nature of post-20-week abortions. I accept the argument, in most cases, that those types of abortions are very few and far between. But I think we have a duty to make sure that they are conducted in an adequate and proper manner."

National's Agnes Loheni asked the House how they had reached a point "where we allow laws to attack the most sacred instinct the mother has for a child"?

"That is an attack on our own humanity. We allow ourselves to be vulnerable to further atrocities against humanity.

"The unborn child is one of us."

Chair of the abortion select committee and Labour MP Ruth Dyson spoke of how she was dismayed at the failure to ensure 'safe zones' remained in the legislation. 

"Staff at clinics and women accessing services should not be subject to harassment, abuse, to intimidation, to humiliation and to feel anything other than going through a procedure that is legal and they are entitled to refer themselves to." 

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty, told of his Catholic faith and how he was adopted. 

"If I was conceived today, statistically I would probably be aborted.

"But, who am I to push my view and my personal circumstances, to push this on a woman? Who am I as a bloke to push this onto a woman."

Earlier today, a NZ First bid to hold a referendum on abortion law reform was  voted down  100-19. 

The bill  passed its second reading  earlier this month with 81 in favour and 39 against. The first reading  passed  94 in favour and 23 against in August last year.

Last week in the first part of the committee of the House, MPs made changes which saw the provision for safe zones scrapped, after a  confused vote in Parliament .

The bill proposed a regulation-making power which would look at creating zones around some abortion facilities. 

ACT leader David Seymour, who proposed the removal of safe zones, said those who wanted it to stay "were focused on other things" instead of calling for a personal vote.

"I hate these odious ogres who protest outside abortion clinics, but I also didn't come to Parliament to make law allowing ministers to ban free speech in whole areas," he said last week.

Today, Green MP Jan Logie attempted to vote again on the safe zone, however it was voted down. 

Another change to the bill last week was a requirement for requiring a health practitioner who was conscientiously objecting to providing a rape victim with emergency contraception, to give the name of someone "nearby" who would provide them with a prescription.