Abortion law 1st reading passed 94 to 23

A huge majority at first reading to amend the laws around abortion. I doubt the proposed changes will have any impact at all on the number of abortions – it is simply a matter of whether women can self-refer to a provider or continue the status quo of having a doctor certify (which they almost always do) that they need the abortion for psychological reasons.

The vote by party was:

  • National 33 of 55 in favour
  • Labour 42 of 46 in favour
  • All NZ First. Greens and ACT in favour

It was a very emotional debate, again as conscience issues often are. Some extracts:

Paula Bennett:

None of those decisions have been in any way, shape, or form taken lightly, done without considerable pain and thought and acknowledgment of all that they are going through. To then have to sit there and make a call, that, actually, they have to then perhaps go through what could be a mental health issue or try and come up with an excuse that is beyond the actual trauma that they are already going through, in my mind isn’t right, and it is for that reason that I believe it should be taken out of the Crimes Act and be considered as a health issue.

Jo Hayes:

My contribution is actually focused on me as a Māori woman and the way that I was raised. I was brought up with values that a woman’s body is tapu and should be respected that way always—where her body is referred to as whare tangata: the sacred house, where we are conceived, where we are nurtured, and where we are born from. Where the generations of whānau that stem from whare tangata, and when we grow too old to be able to carry on with having children, that our sons and our daughters will be able to carry on our blood, our name, our whakapapa through our mokopuna. Where the hongi tells of the act where the god Tāne breathed life into his clay-moulded woman Hineahuone, and she came to life and became his wife and bore his children: the sanctity of life immemorial.
All of these acts of preserving the tapu of women, yet today that seems irrelevant and it’s sad. We have heard and will continue to hear that women have a choice. Believe me, I’m all for choice. But, for me, the most dangerous part of choice in this proposed legislation is a woman’s choice to self-referral for an abortion. To me it is a slippery slope, and one we need to be very, very careful of, should this bill go through.

Tracey Martin:

I reported back to the New Zealand First caucus a number of times over those months around progress. At no time during those negotiations did the New Zealand First caucus raise the issue of a referendum clause or instruct me to raise that topic with Minister Little, and so at no time over those months did I raise it with him.
On the afternoon of Monday, 5 August, I did a pre-recorded interview with Jo Moir of RNZ. Ms Moir asked several questions around the process followed by myself and the New Zealand First caucus. She posed a question regarding a referendum clause, and I answered honestly, as I am wont to do. That interview was played the following morning, Tuesday, 6 August, and it included my comments regarding a referendum clause.
There are some who believe I work in a dictatorship. They could not be further from the truth. Any New Zealand First MP can raise an issue at our caucus and seek majority support for a position on that issue. At the New Zealand First caucus meeting which began at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 August, a member of the New Zealand First caucus requested that they put forward a Supplementary Order Paper to insert a referendum clause into the legislation, in line with the New Zealand First historical position on this issue. He received majority support from the caucus.

An appalling treatment of Tracey Martin by her caucus. They had months to raise the issue of a referendum and not one of them did so. Only after months of negotiation do they undermine her and demand it at the end.

Jacinda Ardern:

Many hold personal views; many have personal experiences. I am one who takes a very simple perspective: that in spite of those personal views, who am I, who is this House, to determine anyone else’s reproductive rights? So, in my view, you can have a deeply held personal view—and, in fact, it can be deeply entrenched and religious; I myself grew up in a religious household—and I will defend, always, your right to hold that view, but I will draw a line when holding that view then impedes on the rights of others. Currently, it does impede on the rights of others. It is not a legal act for women to tell the truth when they seek an abortion in New Zealand. I’ll say that again: women feel like they have to lie to legally access an abortion in New Zealand.

Good speech.

Ian McKelvie:

You see many sad things in life. Some of the saddest I’ve seen result from incest, from women being raped, some even by their fathers. Those women particularly, as Mrs Tolley said, who live in isolated parts of New Zealand struggle seriously to get any kind of service. Those children who are then born as a result of that action often in life become statistics. I think you can see nothing sadder than that in life. So those reasons are the reasons that I support this legislation. I also strongly support the better provision of health services to those women who require abortion and this type of treatment. I think their safety and wellbeing is paramount.

Louise Upston:

And I want to use an example to explain why I’ve wrestled with why this is just being considered a medical procedure. I was told in my 20s that I’d probably never have children. I had some fairly major health issues so I was on fairly heavy-duty drugs that required me to take contraceptives at the same time. I then found at 11 weeks that I was pregnant and told that I absolutely must terminate because of the drugs I’d been taking. And I wasn’t sure. So I was then told by the specialists if I was carrying a boy then absolutely I must terminate—the risk of serious abnormalities and disabilities was so great. So I carried on with chorionic villus sampling, was told I was carrying a boy, and in an addition they had identified genetic abnormalities.
So now it seemed to me in terms of what the medical profession was telling me I had no choice. But actually—and with a genetic abnormality; it’s similar to Down’s syndrome—they told me that they would perform the abortion up to 24 weeks. So I thought, “I’ll go through the process. I’ll go through exactly the same process that any other woman in that situation who’s deciding whether or not to end a pregnancy would go through.” And at the end of the day, I made my decision and decided not to terminate.
I have a 21-year-old son who is a gorgeous, strapping, healthy boy who is 6 foot 5. So, yes, when we talk about it being a medical procedure, it’s actually a bit more than that, and if I had trusted and fully put my faith in the medical professionals, I wouldn’t have had 21 years with the most adorable boy that ever has been.

Judith Collins:

My mother, though, obviously like Ginny Andersen’s mother, like me, had pre-eclampsia and was, you know, almost dead from my sister before me, and when she was pregnant with me at the age of 39, and I was her sixth child, the doctors recommended an abortion. Many years later, people have thought that they should have gone with that option

Some self-deprecating humour from Judith.

Like the Hon Louise Upston, my first pregnancy—well, my first pregnancy was a miscarriage. I miscarried during a court case. Can you imagine what that was like? I had to go back the next day to finish the court case—and people think this place is tough. These things happen. We women have dealt with it for generations, for hundreds of years. It is not a nice place for anyone to be with any pregnancy that is unwanted. But I do think we have to understand the reality. We have to support women when they’re going through this, and we have to have abortions, if they must be, early—as early as possible—and with less trauma as possible. 

And one of many personal stories.

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