Andrew Little, Minister of Justice, announced the abortion legislation bill which will remove the rights of pre-born children and limit the freedoms of those who defend their right to life.

In a press conference this morning, Little declared that the purpose of the legislative changes “is to modernise our abortion law” ensuring that it is “treated as a health issue and to take it out of the criminal framework that it currently sits in.”

It was the opinion of Little that Early Medical Abortions (EMA) would be more readily available in a greater number of areas as the only requirement would be a prescription.

Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, contributed her thoughts on the Bill at a press conference later in the day.  With a beaming smile, she announced her happiness that legislation would finally be going before Parliament. She noted that it was the furthest any government had gone since the late 1970s.

Noting that the Bill had the “greatest chance of succeeding in parliament” Ardern stated that “one of the ultimate goals” was modernisation of the legislation. 

What does the legislation allow for?

Abortion on demand up to 20 weeks
The decision is between a woman and her health practitioner.  She can refer herself for abortion.

Abortion from 20 weeks up to birth with a statutory test
A woman can refer herself for abortion.  The health practitioner will need to “reasonably believe that the abortion is appropriate” in the particular circumstance and the woman’s physical health, mental health and well-being taken into consideration.

Informed Choice and Informed Consent
Informed choice and informed consent must be ensured by the health practitioner in all instances.

Counselling
Counselling is not mandatory, however for any woman who is considering, or have had an abortion should be given the option.

Conscientious Objection
Health practitioners who do not wish to participate in abortion must refer the woman to the Ministry of Health for a list of practitioners who are willing.  While no one can be dismissed because of their objection, an employer can decide whether that objection impacts on their ability to provide the service.  If so, the objector’s employment may be terminated.

Ministry of Health and the Director General of Health
The Ministry of Health will ensure the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act is administered.  As the Abortion Supervisory Committee will be disbanded, it will be the role of the Director General of Health to collect data and develop standards of care.

“Safe” Areas
The Bill provides for abortion facilities to request that a “safe area” be implemented around the property.  The request would need to be made to the Minister of Health who must deem it necessary and be satisfied it can be “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society as a reasonable limitation on people’s rights and freedoms.” 

The exclusion zone of no more than 150m ensures that no pro-life activity can occur within that area.  Violation of the regulation would incur a fine of up to $1000.

Criminal Offenses
It will still remain a criminal offense to:

  • Procure or perform (or attempt to) an abortion if the person doing so is not a qualified health practitioner.
  • Assault a pregnant woman and cause the death of the pre-born child.

What are the implications if the legislation is passed?

  • Over time New Zealand can expect induced abortion numbers to increase – that is if accurate data is collected and reported.
  • There will be an increase in late term abortions as access becomes easier and acceptance among the public increases.
  • As it is predicted that more women will seek and obtain early medical abortions, an increase in complications specific to this method should be expected.
  • Health practitioners are not only medical doctors – expect midwives and nurse practitioners to also be involved in providing abortions, especially as they can prescribe certain medications.  It will follow this legislation that abortion pills will be added to the list of approved medications to prescribe.
  • Persecution of health practitioners who object.  It is possible that some may be dismissed because of the impact their decision has on the employer’s ability to provide abortions.
  • The end of prayer and community outreach such as 40 Days for Life outside abortion facilities as “safe areas” are introduced.  This will lead to a decrease in lives saved – known and known – outside abortion centres. 

What happens next?

The first reading of the Abortion Legislation Bill will take place in Parliament on Thursday 8 August.  If it passes, the next stage is select committee where the public will have an opportunity to voice their opinions through submissions.

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