In a law passed on Wednesday, the New Zealand parliament narrowly voted to allow abortion up to birth.
10 Daily reports MPs voted 68-51 in favor of the legislation and sent it to the Governor-General for Royal Assent for final approval. The margin was much narrower after even pro-choice MPs said it went too far and did not include enough precautions.
The law removes abortion from the country’s criminal code and allows abortions for any reason up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. It also allows abortions up to birth in a wide number of circumstances.
“By taking women and the unborn out of the protection of the Crimes Act, this Act for the first time in the history of New Zealand has given permission for the violent killing of the unborn up to birth,” said Ken Orr, spokesperson for New Zealand Right to Life. “The mark of a civilised society is the loving protection that they surround their women and children with to shield them from violence. This Act will expose women to increased coercion and violence to terminate the life of their child.”
He said pro-lifers will continue to work hard to protect unborn babies and mothers.
Throughout the debate, pro-life and moderate politicians proposed a number of amendments to protect babies who survive abortions from infanticide, stop discriminatory sex-selection abortions and protect women from coerced abortions. Another amendment would have allowed the public to vote on the legislation by referendum. None passed. A pro-abortion amendment that would have created buffer zones around abortion facilities to restrict pro-lifers’ free speech also failed.
Still, abortion activists rejoiced after the vote, claiming legalized abortion on demand is long overdue in New Zealand.
Some MPs even clapped and cheered after the bill passed Wednesday, according to the New Zealand Herald.
In a statement afterward, Justice Minister Andrew Little compared the killing of unborn babies in abortions to basic medical care.
“For over forty years abortion has been the only medical procedure considered a crime in New Zealand,” Little said. “The previous law required women seeking an abortion to go through many hoops. That resulted in delays to access a procedure, and that was less safe.”
A number of MPs emphasized the humanity of unborn babies.
According to the Herald:
National MP Agnes Loheni said the bill was “an attack on our own humanity”.
“Who are we and who are we heading as a society if we allow laws which attack our the most sacred instinct has for her unborn child?” …
National MP Simon O’Connor referenced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s speech following the March 15 mosque terror attacks.
“They are us and we are them. I’ve said many, many times before that human rights apply to all humans.
“And I find it sadly sad … that for people to say they are us and we are them but when it comes to the unborn child, according to those who will support the bill, unborn children are certainly not with us and we are not with them and I condemn this position.”
Others expressed concerns about just how extreme the abortion law is. They said it will allow young girls to get abortions without their parents’ knowledge or consent and allow viable, late-term unborn babies to be aborted just because they have a disability. Others pointed to the lack of oversight of abortion facilities and limited conscience protections for pro-life medical workers.
It is not clear from reports if the law goes into effect immediately.
Until now, New Zealand protected unborn babies’ right to life, except in limited cases such as abuse, health risks to the mother and fetal anomalies.
Orr said pro-lifers are worried about the government trying to strip away the rights of other New Zealanders, too.
“This appalling Act has created a very dangerous precedent,” he said. “It was prophesied by the Royal Commission on Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion in 1977, when it warned Parliament, that if Parliament did not effectively protect the right to life of the unborn, a future Parliament would refuse to protect the right to life of those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“The pro-life movement will not rest until this draconian anti-life Act is repealed,” he promised.