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  • Mon, 4, Sep, 2017 - 5:00:AM

The Pitch: Where the candidates stand on abortion legalisation

Image: jordanuhl7 / Wikimedia Commons

This year, on September 23, New Zealand will vote on who gets to lead the country for the next three years. Over the past few months, Villainesse has reached out to a number of politicians, asking them why they think they deserve the vote of young women. In our 2017 election series, 'The Pitch', we asked politicians to make their case to you so that when you go to the ballot box you'll know exactly where they stand.

We reached out to every party currently in Parliament, and received answers from National, Labour, The Green Party, Act and United Future. Although we reached out to a number of National MPs, including the Prime Minister, only Paula Bennett agreed to take part. New Zealand First did not answer our questions, so its MPs are not represented.

Between now and the election, we’ll be providing you with a snapshot of where the politicians we interviewed stand on important issues, so that you can compare and contrast. First up is abortion.

We asked each politician, “Where do you stand on abortion legislation? Would you like to see it changed? If so, what changes would you make?”

Here’s what they had to say.

 

NATIONAL

Paula Bennett, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women: Personally, I’m pro-choice. But a change in legislation is not on the Government’s agenda at the moment. If this was to be debated, it will probably have to be a Private Members Bill and there isn’t one in the ballot at the moment. Any member of parliament who’s not a Minister can put forward a bill on this. If it was drawn, it would then be a conscience issue and I would decide how to vote on that at the time as I would want to ensure that women are better off.

LABOUR

Jacinda Ardern, Labour Party leader: Abortion should not be in the Crimes Act, so we will remove it from there. We will also review the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 – work that the Abortion Supervisory Committee has asked Parliament to undertake.

Andrew Little: I’m a strong supporter of a woman’s right to choose. The legislation for abortion has been around for about 40 years. I believe it needs to be reviewed and updated, and that’s also the view of the Abortion Supervisory Committee. Basically, abortion should not be in the Crimes Act. It is not a crime.

Carmel Sepuloni: I want to see a review of the abortion law and Labour has committed to making that happen. I do not believe that abortion should be in the crimes act. And I do strongly hold the view that a conscience vote should be had on matters regarding abortion.

Kiri Allan: Repeal s183 of the Crimes Act 1961, enacted in 1977, on the grounds it is simply not fit for purpose in a modern day society. Abortion needs to be decriminalised and the current process is archaic and needs to change.

Louisa Wall: Abortion is a conscience issue for Labour MPs, but we do support calls for the current 40 year old abortion law to be modernised. Our Labour policy is to have the issue reviewed by the Law Commission, before committing to legislative changes.

I believe that women should have a choice available to them and that abortion should not be viewed as a crime. Therefore I absolutely support a review of the current legislation with the expertise of the law commission to guide us through this process.

THE GREEN PARTY

James Shaw, Green Party leader: We believe that abortion should be safe and legal. Abortion should be removed from the Crimes Act and dealt with as a health issue, giving women the right to make choices that are best for them and their whānau.

Gareth Hughes: It’s time to modernise our abortion laws and remove it from the Crimes Act.

Chlöe Swarbrick: We’d start by taking it out of the Crimes Act. I think a lot of New Zealanders may not realise that abortion is currently a criminal action, for which one need get exemptions. There’s a legal and social stigma attached to that, so it needs to change.

Golriz Ghahraman: The fact that 99 percent of abortions are approved on “mental health” grounds and that rape is not grounds for an abortion reveals the dishonesty of the current legal situation. I want our law to assert the right of women to make decisions about our own health by decriminalising abortion.

Metiria Turei: Our abortion law is out of date and we want to see it changed. Abortion should be taken out of the Crimes Act and regulated as a health issue instead.

THE MĀORI PARTY

Marama Fox, co-leader of the Māori Party: We believe that in matters pertaining to life and death, decisions are best made in the context of Whānau Ora – the whānau determining the best outcomes for their whānau.  We place high value on whakapapa – the sacred genealogical lines of one’s descent. As Māori, we need to be confident that the respect we have for whakapapa, for whānaungatanga, and for tikanga are fully understood by ourselves and others.

[Update: Fox clarified her view on Twitter on September 4, saying, "my stance is it's a woman's choice - I wouldn't choose it but that's my choice."]

Te Ururoa Flavell, co-leader of the Māori Party: We believe the current law in relation to abortion needs to be reviewed. There are a range of issues concerning abortion laws, including cultural issues. We recognise there is a conversation to be had as a nation about the extent to which abortion should be treated as a crime or a health issue. We welcome the debate and the need for a rethink of the current law.

ACT

David Seymour, ACT Party leader: I have always believed in personal choice and that extends to the issue of abortion. Morally, abortion is about a women’s body and her choice. Practically, prohibitions on this choice have had horrible consequences such as child neglect and unsafe abortions. Nobody believes that 97 per cent of women who have abortions are mentally ill, but that is what we are expected to believe according to official statistics, I believe the current law should be reformed. My End of Life Choice Bill has been my member’s bill on the ballot this parliamentary term, but with a bigger and stronger ACT we will have more opportunities to get big issues like this in front of Parliament.

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