Abortion, Bill

This article was originally written for and published by Salient, Issue 3 2017

Prime Minister Bill English dismissed recommendations from the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) when he stated on a recent Q+A interview, in response to a question as to whether he was in favour of liberalising abortion laws, “I’m not, and I wouldn’t vote for legislation that did.”

The ASC described the current laws, some of which have stood unchanged for 40 years, as “clumsy and outdated.” In a recent press release, Family Planning’s Chief Executive Jackie Edmond described them as old, discriminatory, expensive, and inconsistent. “Our laws should be in line with current medical care and recognise women’s autonomy and rights.”

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Currently, abortion is only legal if two certifying doctors agree that a continuation of pregnancy would seriously harm a woman’s physical or mental health. Sexual violence and extremes of age are not technically grounds in themselves for an abortion.

Labour Leader Andrew Little expressed his concerns when he also appeared on Q+A, saying “we should not have it in the Crimes Act, it’s not a crime.” He added that Labour supports a review of the law, however he acknowledged that it would be put to a conscience vote.

English said he supported issues, like changes to abortion law, being dealt with through a conscience vote, and was “quite happy” if his vote against liberalisation was to “set a tone of not rushing into big changes in abortion law.”

Last week, England and Wales voted in favour of a Bill that would decriminalise abortion in their respective countries.

-Siobhan O’Connor

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