Ardern asked to act on abortion
Abortion law reform advocates are eager for the new prime minister to act on her call to take abortion out of the Crimes Act as soon as possible.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern publicly stated that she didn’t believe abortion should be in the Crimes Act, as it is currently. But the issue does not feature in Labour’s 100-day plan or official Health Policy.
Ardern said in the Newshub debate in early September that she didn’t believe abortion should be in the Crimes Act.
‘‘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.’’
In subsequent interviews, she clarified that abortion would remain a ‘‘conscience issue’’ meaning while she might bring a bill to Parliament, her government MPs would be free to vote against it if they saw fit.
Abortion Law Reform New Zealand president Terry Bellamak told The Dominion Post yesterday that New Zealand had a real opportunity to catch up with the developed world as soon as possible.
‘‘This is a time of opportunity, because so many other countries are going through the same kind of process around abortion. I can’t really see New Zealanders satisfied if Ireland has more liberal abortion laws than New Zealand,’’ Bellamak said.
‘‘I really, really want to believe Jacinda Ardern, because she said it right out in public, she said she would do this, and that she thought women should be able to get abortion as a right. To me that means no auditing of reasons any more.’’
Bellamak said taking away ‘‘auditing’’ of reasons for an abortion would mean women wouldn’t have to make multiple long trips to abortion clinics, something which has been a particular problem on the West Coast in the South Island, where there are no clinics.
Medical abortions - also known as ‘‘abortion pills’’ and available to end pregnancies in early gestation - could be prescribed by GPs.
‘‘There’s no reason why a GP shouldn’t be able to prescribe it,’’ Bellamak said.
Despite holding pro-choice views herself, Helen Clark’s government never substantially moved to liberalise the law.
Bellamak said she would fight to make sure this government didn’t do the same thing - or move in halves, taking it out of the Crimes Act but keeping the restrictive criteria.
In the immediate term, she wanted the government to look into why Waitemata District Health Board had told some women who were 18 weeks pregnant to go to Australia for abortions.
A spokesman for the prime minister declined to comment yesterday.
National leader Bill English, a Catholic, opposes any changes that ‘‘liberalise’’ abortion laws, calling the current setup ‘‘broadly satisfactory’’.
Anti-abortion group Voice For Life describes Ardern’s views on abortion as ‘‘confused’’.
‘‘It is not illegal for a woman to access an abortion in New Zealand,’’ president Jacqui deRuiter said.
‘‘There are restrictions on when an unborn child may be aborted and who may perform an abortion, but these restrictions are there to protect pregnant women from rogue doctors and other practitioners, and to prevent discriminatory abortion practices.’’