by Terry Bellamak
This election was good news for supporters of reproductive rights. The results show that, unlike some places, New Zealand has no time for theocracy.
Parliamentary supporters of the Abortion Legislation Act (ALA) were re-elected in droves. Incumbents showed little inclination to downplay their support for reproductive rights.
Anti-abortion groups put together a not-very-widespread meme that listed those who voted ‘yes’ at third reading, intending it as a badge of shame. That may have backfired. Some probably used it as a handy list of whom to vote for.
On the other hand, those who voted against the ALA did not fare very well (unless they were Labour MPs). Of the 14 National MPs who lost their seats, 12 had spoken or voted (or both) against the ALA.
At worst, the ALA had no effect on the election. At best, supporting the ALA was an advantage in a country whose support for reproductive rights has consistently polled in the upper 60s.
This was bad news for religious ‘traditional family’ types, whose flagship party, the New Conservatives, received a drubbing. So did smaller parties with similar retrograde stances on reproductive rights, gender issues, and modern life in general.
The referenda brought more bad news for social conservatives. The End of Life Choice Act was soundly approved by 65% of voters. Voters shrugged off the ‘no’ campaign’s false claims of wholesale slaughter. The message that people should be able to choose whether or not to use assisted dying based on their own moral values seemed to resonate with voters.
Sadly, the cannabis referendum failed by a whisker – but the close result bodes well for the next time it comes up, which will doubtless be soon.
New Zealand’s socially progressive tendencies likely arise from its resolutely secular character. In 2018, census data showed almost half of New Zealanders, over 2.2 million, said they followed no religion. The next largest group was Anglicans, with a little over one tenth as many adherents as ‘none’.
The results of the election bear this out. New Zealand’s future is progressive.