Justice Minister takes abortion bill to parliament

By Tema Hemi

Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today that he will take an abortion law reform bill to parliament as the government proposes to remove abortion from the Crimes Act.

The right to terminate a pregnancy has been hotly debated over the years now the government is taking steps to change the law surrounding the issue.

Little says, "The purpose of the law is to modernise our abortion law and to ensure that abortion is treated as a health issue and to take it out of the criminal framework it currently sits in."

The new abortion bill proposes to remove any statutory test on the health practitioner for women who are not more than 20 weeks pregnant. 

"Health practitioners must advise women of the availability of counselling if they are considering an abortion," says Little, "The law will enable women to self-refer to an abortion service provider.  They will not have to have that brokered through their GP.  The bill will provide for a regulation-making power to establish safe zones on a case-by-case basis."

It's a move Coalition New Zealand Party Leader Hannah Tamaki is totally opposed to. 

Tamaki says, "People don't like us bringing God into the equation but the reality is we've got to understand the giver of life is God, and the taker of life is God ... who are we as mere mortals to decide who lives and who doesn't?"

Tamaki believes the government has no right to legislate away the right to life. 

"We're actually going down a very slippery slope because we've got euthanasia now, so we kill them at the end and we kill them at the beginning," says Tamaki.

Little also clarified the remaining criminal elements proposed in the bill. 

"It will remain a crime of course for someone who is not a qualified health practitioner to offer abortion services and then finally, for someone who assaults pregnant women that leads to the loss of the foetus," says Little.

The bill will go to a vote of conscience in parliament.