A stuff up in Parliament

Stuff reports:

Justice Minister Andrew Little will not try to re-introduce “safe zones” into his abortion legalisation bill after a procedural snafu saw them removed on Tuesday night.

The proposed safe zones would set up a regime where protest and harassment of those seeking abortions could be barred within 150 metres of clinics. …

On a late night sitting on Tuesday night those against the safe zones actually lost their first attempt to remove them, when an amendment deleting the definition of safe zones lost 59 votes to 56.

But a second attempt by ACT leader David Seymour was more successful essentially by accident, when an amendment removing essential functions of the safe areas was passed by a simple voice vote. This means MPs simply yelled out their preference, and because nobody called for votes to be actually counted the amendment was passed based on whose voices sounded louder.

So Parliament basically accidentally deleted safe zones from the bill.

While it was an accident, I think it is the right outcome.

I think people who protest outside abortion clinics are terrible people. If you don’t like the law on abortion, then go protest outside Parliament, or an MP’s office. But leave alone the poor women who are exercising their legal rights under the law to have an abortion.

But having said that, just because I think protests outside abortion clinics are terrible, that doesn’t mean the law should ban them. I think many things are terrible.

People have a right to protest in public spaces, so long as they don’t block people going about their legal business. A law that bans protests in certain areas a a bad one and sets a bad precedent.

Existing law is more than adequate to deal with activity that goes beyond protest and becomes disruption.

So I think the outcome was the right one, despite the messy process.

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