Support for a bill that would introduce the world’s most extreme abortion law to New Zealand has plummeted.
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 Abortion Legislation Bill passed its Second Reading in Parliament in a conscience vote late tonight, with 81 votes in favour and 39 votes opposing.
But, the margin of support for the bill has fallen dramatically since it passed its first reading with 94 votes in favour to 23 against last year.
Introducing the second reading, Justice Minister Andrew Little said the current law was 40 years old and claimed it was, therefore, no longer fit for purpose.
However, a number of pro-life MPs spoke out in strong opposition to such a negative change in he law.
National MP Agnes Loheni, who became emotional during her speech, said there was “a lot to be alarmed about” and that the bill “has always been a solution looking for a problem.”
She said the proposals would dehumanise the unborn baby “to the point that we no longer call them babies”.
“I am deeply saddened at this bill’s blatant attack on the right to life and recognition for our unborn babies,” she added.
“Most harrowing for me this bill frees up post 20 week abortions to the point that any measured reading of the bill can only conclude that it would allow abortion, on demand, up to birth.”
Loheni revealed that, even as a member of the Abortion Legislation Select Committee, she was unable to affect any meaningful change to the bill despite an overwhelming number of submissions against it.
She noted that the select committee received over 25,000 submissions in response to a consultation on the legislation, of which 91.6% opposed it.
Loheni added under the proposed criteria doctors would find it difficult to turn down a request for an abortion even after 20 weeks.
Her speech prompted applause from those watching in the public gallery, causing Speaker Trevor Mallard to warn them not to “intervene”.
Labour MP Greg O’Connor, who supported the bill at its first reading, said he could no longer support it, due to the lack of safeguards after 20 weeks’ gestation.
O’Connor, whose 27-year-old son has a disability suggested the proposed law would see new pressure put on parents to abort children who may not be what they hoped for, something which is already happening in the UK.
“What this post-20 weeks legislation will mean is that parents who do find out they have a child who may not be normal, who may be a child who isn’t what they hoped the child might be, all of a sudden a whole new set of pressures are going to go on as a result of this legislation,” he said.
Act leader David Seymour supported the bill, but said the proposed ‘safety zones’ of 150m in the vicinity of abortion clinics was against the principle of freedom of expression – and he would try to change that.
The bill now heads to the committee stage where further changes can be made by MPs.
Over 3,500 people gathered in Auckland on Saturday to celebrate life and urge their political leaders to choose life and vote against the legislation. A similar rally, in Wellington last year, also attracted thousands of campaigners.
A large number of parents have publicly voiced their concerns about the harmful impact this bill will have on people with Down’s syndrome.
Most extreme abortion law in the world
Canada is the only country in the world that has no abortion law, as their law was struck down by a case brought to their Supreme Court in 1988.
Amongst the rest of the jurisdictions in the world that have abortion legislation, Victoria, Australia, currently has the most extreme law.
The law in Victoria allows for abortion right through to birth on physical, psychological and social grounds when approved by two doctors; this can be the abortion operating surgeon and anaesthetist.
This has, in practice, allowed for abortion on demand, for any reason, right through to birth in Victoria, Australia.
Ahead of the legislation being introduced in Victoria in 2008, abortion activists claimed that, although abortion would, in practice, be allowed for any reason, doctors would ensure that the vast majority of abortions would only occur in rare circumstances, such as when a baby had a condition where they would either die in the womb or shortly after birth (a fatal foetal abnormality or life-limiting disability) – similar claims are currently now being made about the proposed NZ abortion law by abortion campaigners and MPs in New Zealand.
Data from the 12 years of the law being in operation in Victoria shows that this has not been the case. Right To Life UK’s Public Affairs team have undertaken an extensive analysis of published abortion data on late-term abortions in Victoria from The Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality.
This data shows that since the law changed in 2008, 1,418 late-term abortions (between 20-weeks’ gestation and birth) have been performed, allowed by doctors for ‘psychosocial’ reasons – these were terminations where the baby did not have a disability and the abortion was performed on social grounds. In 2011, one of these abortions on social grounds occured at 37 weeks.
Under New Zealand law currently, abortion is allowed post-20 weeks on very strict grounds (when the abortion is “necessary to save the life of the woman or girl or to prevent serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health”).
This strict law has meant that abortions post 20-weeks are rare – for example 72 abortions occurred after 20-weeks in New Zealand in 2017.
Victoria has a population that is only 32% larger than New Zealand’s, but the number of abortions that occurred post 20-weeks were much higher, 323 or 348.61% higher than the number that occurred in New Zealand that same year (published data for Victoria has not been released for 2018 yet).
Another side effect of the very high late-term abortion rate in Australia is that scores of babies have been left to die after being born alive during a number of ‘botched’ terminations.
The Victorian Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity reported that in 2012 there were 53 ‘terminations of pregnancy’ after 20 weeks ‘resulting in live birth’.
By contrast, a 2008 report for England and Wales found that 66 infants were born alive after NHS terminations in one year. While these figures are comparable in number, Victoria’s population of 6.36 million is just a tenth of the size of the population in England and Wales.
A Channel 7 news report, broadcast on April 17 2010, reported that there had been a large increase in late-term abortions being performed at the Royal Women’s Hospital since the introduction of the 2008 Abortion Law Reform. Presenter Jennifer Keyte stated how “midwives and doctors feel traumatized” by having to perform so many late-term abortions at the Royal Women’s Hospital. Journalist Louise Milligan said that there had been some ‘alarming requests’ for late-term abortions, including a request for a termination at 32 weeks because the baby had a hare lip.
The Abortion Legislation Bill is even more extreme than the law in Victoria, Australia – making it the most extreme abortion law in the world.
It would allow abortions between 20-weeks’ gestation and birth with the go-ahead from just two health practitioners (this could include nurses and midwives) rather than the higher threshold of two doctors that are required in Victoria.
In the proposed legislation in New Zealand, the Abortion Legislation Committee have now widened the, already loose, criteria to include “overall well-being” – making it even easier for abortions to happen between 20-weeks and birth in New Zealand. These are undefined terms and it will be up to the health practitioner involved as to how they interpret them.
In addition to introducing abortion de facto on demand, for any reason up to birth, the bill will also make the following extreme changes to New Zealand abortion law:
- The current 20-week limit for disability-selective abortion will be scrapped, introducing abortion up-to-birth for any disability including Down syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.
- Sex-selective abortion will be legalised.
- There will be no legal restrictions on locations where abortions can take place – abortions could be performed almost anywhere including schools, mobile abortion clinics and through ‘Facetime’ consultations.
- There will be no requirement that a doctor must be involved in an abortion.
Over 12,000 have signed our petition calling on New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, to withdraw his support for the bill.