National MP maintains he was not 'gagged' over abortion post

National MP Simon O'Connor maintains he was not gagged by his leader to take down a social media post that referred to the Roe v Wade overturning decision as a "good day".

Simon O'Connor

O'Connor said took the post down voluntarily and the reason it took a few hours to remove was he was water blasting at the time.

The MP for Tamaki said he took it down because "the comments and so-forth were just spiralling, it was getting worse and worse and it was very clear to me as well that a lot of people were distressed".

O'Connor said he made the choice to pull the post down.

"The distress it was causing, particularly through the comments, were pretty bad. But I respected and enjoyed the conversation with Christopher (Luxon) and other colleagues to help guide my decision."

"I have not been gagged."

READ MORE: National MP removes post 'causing distress' after abortion ruling

O'Connor described himself as a great advocate for free speech - "but all rights have limits".

"The distress it was causing, particularly through the comments were getting pretty bad. The nature of the comments, the hurt, the distress, actually this has to stop and I can't be facilitating it."

He maintained that Saturday was a good day, saying, "I'm a pro-lifer, so yes".

"I've never hidden my pro-life views," he said

O'Connor said he would not be putting forward any private member's bills on abortion.

"I'm very proud I have a modern slavery bill in the ballot, and I've had other ones in the defence and palliative care space."

He said it took a couple of hours to take the post down as he was water blasting and did not have his phone on him.

National leader Christopher Luxon doubled down on his commitment not to change New Zealand's abortion laws on Monday.

Luxon told 1News that "personally, I've got a 'pro-life' position but the reality is in New Zealand there is no need for us to change the laws".

READ MORE: Nat MP could see abortion post 'was possibly insensitive' - Luxon

Abortion reform was passed into law in early 2020 during the last term of Government. It removed it from the Crimes Act, as well as removing the statutory test for a person who is less than 20 weeks pregnant. It also allowed a woman to self-refer to an abortion provider.

Other MPs who voted against New Zealand's reform, including Labour's Jamie Strange, Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki, Greg O'Connor, Adrian Rurawhe and Meka Whitiri as well as National's Louise Upston, were questioned on their stance in light of Roe v Wade.

Upston called the situation in the US "concerning and a major step backwards".

On O'Connor's post, Upston said it was important "to accept on matters on conscience there are a range of views".

"It is distressing full stop.

"National does not have any plans whatsoever to change any of the abortion legislation or any access to services. That doesn't prevent colleagues like Nicola (Grigg) and I, and others in our caucus having a view on matters of conscience. If, at a time in future, legislation was to come before the House, that's right and proper."

READ MORE: Acting PM takes aim at Nats over abortion as he faces Mahuta questions

When asked about her decision to vote against abortion reform in New Zealand in 2020, Upston said it was "not a black and white issue".

"I'm very, very comfortable we moved it to a health issue, it should be a health issue, it should not be a criminal issue, but personally I'm concerned about late term abortions."

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said in 2020 the amount of abortions over 20 weeks was less than 1% of total abortions. A qualified health practitioner is only allowed to provide an abortion after 20 weeks if it is "clinically appropriate", with consultation needed with at least one other qualified health practitioner, and regard given to legal, professional and ethical standards, the person’s physical health, mental health and overall wellbeing and the gestational age of the foetus.

National's Nicola Grigg said she was "very much pro-choice, so I feel devastated for those women in the US that will be feeling quite traumatised and extremely anxious".

Nicola Grigg

Green Party's Marama Davidson called O'Connor's post, "poor, poor form".

"Why celebrate something that is going to cause distress and harm for people's lives and wellbeing? Why be happy and celebrate the removal of human rights, the removal of people's access to healthcare?"

Davidson said the Roe v Wade decision showed "we should not take anything for granted from any politician".

"What I think we need to watch for is maintaining not just the legislation for abortion, but access, safe zones, the inequities and divide between access of rural and urban places, the inequities for people to access any general health care that is part of the pathway towards access termination, access to contraception."