A New Zealand bill that would allow unborn babies to be aborted up to birth passed a first vote in parliament Thursday despite strong public opposition.
According to 1 News Now, the pro-abortion bill passed its first reading in a 94-23 vote after a heated debate.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is pushing for the legislation, said “women’s dignity and rights” are at stake.
“Who am I, who is this House, to determine anyone else’s reproductive rights?” Ardern said.
The new proposal would expand abortions in New Zealand, making the country one of the most pro-abortion in the world. Though abortions technically are still listed in the criminal code, they are widely available as long as a woman receives the permission of two doctors after a counseling session, according to the BBC.
The bill would remove abortion from the criminal code and end the counseling and the two-doctor requirements, 1 News Now reports. After 20 weeks, it would allow unborn babies to be aborted if one doctor believes the baby would negatively affect the woman’s physical or mental health.
Essentially, the government is “liberalizing abortion right up to birth,” National MP Chris Penk said earlier this month.
NEWSIE reports several MPs spoke out in favor of the rights of unborn babies Thursday during the debate.
National MP Agnes Loheni said abortion is not a health issue, it’s a life-destroying procedure.
“As the statistics show, abortion is overwhelmingly not about a mother’s health, particularly in the first trimester,” she said. “It is about a decision to terminate a life for life-style reasons. We should as a society have the courage to admit that.”
National MP Gerry Brownlee said he also will vote against the bill because it is so “extreme.” He said sex-selection abortions are a problem across the world, but the bill does not prohibit them.
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Here’s more from 1 News Now:
Maureen Pugh voiced her concern, saying she struggled to understand “what we are trying to fix”.
Ms Pugh said the current legislation was intended to protect women, and improving contraception access should be paramount.
“Don’t open the door to such liberalisation that turns abortion to quasi-contraception on demand.”
Green Party’s Jan Logie said 30 per cent of women “had to jump through multiple hoops to access abortion”.
“I find the idea of forcing someone to continue a pregnancy against their will, actually shocking.”
Jo Hayes called the bill a “slippery slope”.
“What is the rights of the unborn? It seems in this debate there is none.”
The legislation now moves forward to a special committee for further debate and possible amendments, according to the report.
Earlier this month, Justice Minister Andrew Little argued that abortions should be treated like any other health procedure.
“Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It’s time for this to change,” Little said in a statement. “Safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body.”
Pro-life advocates say government leaders are not being clear about just how radical their bill is.
“If this is abortion up to birth that’s being proposed by Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government then why does the bill not state that?” said Kate Cormack with the pro-life organization Voice for Life. “Why does the bill not prevent abortion up to birth? Why doesn’t it stop abortion at 30 weeks? There’s nothing like that being proposed in this.”
The pro-life organization pointed to a 2016 Curia Market Research poll that found 56 percent of women want limits on abortion prior to 20 weeks.
Cormack said women both want and deserve better from New Zealand leaders.
“This is simply wish fulfillment for a tiny minority of very vocal abortion ideologues, and it will waste valuable Parliamentary time and resources that should be spent on more pressing issues,” Cormack said.
In July, the pro-life organization presented a petition with more than 13,000 signatures to the government in opposition to pro-abortion legislation. Cormack said they will continue to work hard to stop the bill from becoming law.
Along with the abortion expansion, the bill also would allow buffer zones around abortion facilities to prevent pro-life sidewalk counselors from reaching out to women before they go inside.
In 2017, there were 13,285 abortions in New Zealand, or 36 unborn babies killed each day.