A bill that would introduce the world’s most extreme abortion law to New Zealand looked like it would emerge from the first of two committee stage debates unchanged, until pro-abortion MPs calamitously axed one of their own key proposals.
In an inadvertent victory for pro-life campaigners, pro-abortion MPs accidentally allowed an amendment preventing the establishment of “buffer zones”, which prevent pro-life help from being offered outside abortion clinics, to pass unchallenged.
Pro-abortion MPs had hoped to establish so-called censorship zones up to 150 metres in diameter around abortion clinics.
David Seymour, leader of the libertarian right-wing ACT Party tabled an amendment to remove censorship zones from the Bill, despite being a supporter of the bill and a staunch advocate of abortion and euthanasia. Mr Seymour brought forward the amendment because he believes that the speech needed to be protected, saying: “I’ve never defended anyone that I like when it comes to free speech, and that’s the test of free speech, you’ve got to protect people that you don’t like”.
The amendment failed, but by a very tight margin, 59 votes to 56, however later in the evening a second part to his amendment effectively passed by accident.
The second part of Seymour’s amendment proposed deleting the parts of the bill that would give effect to the censorship zones. It then went to a voice vote, where MPs vote by saying “aye” and “no”, which was passed.
MPs then had an opportunity to call a conscience vote on the amendment but supporters of censorship zones failed to do this, meaning the amendment passed. A late attempt by pro-abortion Green MP Jan Logie to save the provision failed.
While censorship zones remain in the legislation, the parts of the bill relating to establishing censorship zones and making them function have been removed. This effectively makes it impossible to set up censorship zones.
Currently, abortion in New Zealand is permitted with the approval of two doctors when the pregnant woman faces a danger to her life, physical or mental health, with a 20-week time limit for disability-selective abortions.
If this proposed legislation were to pass New Zealand would have the most extreme abortion law in the world, essentially permitting abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy.
The Bill will now enter a second Committee Stage debate tomorrow, on Wednesday 11 March, ahead of the Bill’s third and final reading. One amendment that will be voted on tomorrow could see the extreme abortion Bill decided by a referendum, along with euthanasia.