New Zealand bill seeks to allow elective abortions before 20 weeks
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The government of New Zealand proposed a bill this week that would lift a law stipulating that abortions before 20 weeks may only be performed for medical reasons.
Wellington, New Zealand, (CNA) - Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the bill on Monday. It will be introduced to the New Zealand Parliament on August 8 for a preliminary vote.
Currently, a woman seeking an abortion must have two doctors' referrals stating that the pregnancy poses a danger to her physical or mental health.
If the bill passed, women would be able to undergo abortions up to 20 weeks into pregnancy without a doctor's referral or medical reason. After 20 weeks, they would need a doctor to assess that the pregnancy poses a threat to their physical or mental health.
The legislation would also prohibit pro-life counselors and protestors from coming within 500 feet of an abortion clinic.
According to the New York Times, Ardern predicted that the vote will be close. It has been labeled a conscience issue, so members of Parliament may vote outside of party lines.
Justice Minister Andrew Little has advocated for the measure, saying it is time for change in the nation's abortion laws.
"Safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body," he said, according to the BBC.
Pro-life advocates have pushed back against the bill, calling it "extreme." Kate Cormack, media spokeswoman for Voice for Life, said the bill does not reflect public opinion.
"What Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Government is attempting to do here is truly astounding when you consider they have no public mandate. 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 a recent statement.
According to Voice for Life, a Curia Market Research poll in 2016 found that 56% of New Zealand women support "time limits for abortion to be shorter than the current 20 weeks."
Right to Life New Zealand also expressed disappointment with Ardern's announcement and encouraged the government to defend the dignity of the human person.
"It is disappointing that the Prime Minister who is a loving mother and genuinely cares about children, child abuse, child poverty and is the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction is oblivious of the plight of our unborn, the weakest and most defenceless members of our human family," the group said in a statement August 4.
"The State has a serious duty to protect the lives of every member of the community from conception to natural death."
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