Ardern asked to act on abor­tion

The Dominion Post - - Politics - HENRY COOKE

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.’’

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