Safe areas second reading a win for abortion care in Aotearoa

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa welcomes the passing of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill 2020 at its second reading this morning. The strong cross-party support for the bill is particularly pleasing, with a 108-12 result in favour of passage.

Whilst ALRANZ supports the creation of safe areas, we acknowledge the Bill in its current form is not perfect. ALRANZ Executive Member Jacqueline Cavanagh said, “the proposed process for the establishment of safe areas is cumbersome and will cause undue delays”.

“ALRANZ intends to advocate for safe area restrictions applying to all premises where abortion healthcare is provided immediately from assent. It is unconscionable for consumers and providers of abortion healthcare to be exposed to potential harm due to unnecessary red tape.” 

ALRANZ would also like to remind the 12 MPs that voted against the second reading of this Bill that they are not voting on whether they support safe and legal abortion. The issue is whether abortion patients and providers should be protected from intimidation and the real threat of violence, not dissimilar from the threats those MPs have seen outside Parliament this week.

We urge these 12 MPs to reconsider their position and vote yes on the Bill in it’s the third reading. The passage of the Bill will demonstrate that Aotearoa is willing to protect consumers and providers of vital healthcare services.

ALRANZ Executive Member Jacqueline Cavanagh

National Party’s new conscience not representative of Aotearoa’s values

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa notes the appointment of Christopher Luxon as new leader for the National Party, and Nicola Willis as deputy leader.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa spokesperson Dr Tracy Morison said “Christopher Luxon’s well-publicised anti-abortion views are not representative of the values of mainstream New Zealanders, who overwhelmingly supported reform”.

Dr Tracy Morison, interim President of ALRANZ

Luxon said on Checkpoint following his appointment that his pro-life stance is not “a big issue” because abortion was decriminalized last year, and his deputy Nicola Willis is pro-choice.

Tracy Morison notes that “most people seeking abortion care in Aotearoa would disagree strongly with Christopher on this point”. Luxon’s refusal to answer whether he thought abortion was murder indicates he understands he is out of step with most New Zealanders.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa wish Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis well, but intend to monitor the extent that views such as his may have on the provision of safe and equitable abortion care in Aotearoa, particularly when considering the upcoming vote on the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill.

Safe areas and the intersection between the anti-abortion and anti-vax movements

Safe areas and the intersection between the anti-abortion and anti-vax movements

By Ella Shepherd

On Tuesday, Kieran McAnulty (MP for the Wairarapa) shared his story about encounters with the anti-vax movement of Aotearoa. While speaking to his Wairarapa electorate, Kieran described being verbally assaulted and receiving numerous death threats, all while being filmed by his anti-vax assailant. This was a vile incident that rightly caused Kieran to fear for his safety.

Kieran spoke to Parliamentary Security about extending measures to protect MPs, such as installing security systems in MPs’ residences in both Wellington and their electorates. Such an assault on an MP is nerve-racking. Kieran noted that the mood changed pretty quickly, creating a volatile situation. Other MPs, such as Chris Bishop, have also described receiving “pretty abusive” messages. Likewise, David Seymour said MPs are becoming aware “we have to watch our back” because of heated interactions with constituents. Across Parliament there is consensus: threats of violence from anti-vaxxers are starting to escalate. Of course, this is awful. Anti-vaxxers take hard-line positions, are unwilling to compromise, and cross boundaries to reinforce their point. These confrontations are scary, and MPs are right to worry about their safety. As Kieran noted, situations can escalate quickly and create dangerous environments.

There is a parallel between anti-vax protesters targeting MPs and anti-abortion protestors targeting those accessing and providing abortion healthcare. First, the groups have considerable overlap in membership. Recent protests at Parliament came with signs that were both anti-abortion and anti-vax. As we can see in the photo above, many in the anti-vax movement are also anti-abortion. Furthermore, some of the key anti-abortion groups whose supporters regularly target abortion clinics also take an anti-vax stance. For example, Right to Life New Zealand’s Facebook page now posts a mix of anti-abortion and anti-vax rhetoric, such as this post from the 31st of October (below). 

 These aggressive and threatening tactics are not new – abortion providers and patients have long been targeted by these groups. It’s just that now MPs are also experiencing a taste. More MPs are being confronted with people getting up in their face while they are minding their business. With people filming them and uploading footage online to encourage others to join in on the threatening behaviour. With being called a murderer. 

For MPs to now recognise that these behaviours are frightening is to finally accept what pregnant people and abortion providers have been saying for decades. After meeting with Parliament Security earlier this week, Kieran stated that all MPs would now be granted access to a security


upgrade, rather than having to ask for one. Meanwhile, pregnant people and abortion providers are still advocating for the Safe Areas Amendment Bill to be passed. Put simply, it would be hypocritical in the extreme for an MP to vote against abortion providers and patients getting protection from the same sort of harassment that MPs are able to protect themselves from, promptly and without hoop jumping.

While MPs can now access upgraded security, abortion providers and patients still have to go through a lengthy process. Not only are they waiting for the Bill to be passed, but once it is passed protection isn’t even ensured. Providers will still have to wait for the Minister of Health to consult with the Minister of Justice, and then recommend the establishment of a safe area. This is lengthy, discretionary, and does not accord with the reality of harassment outside abortion centres.

MPs and Parliament more broadly are aware that these people threaten the safety of others by pushing their anti-vax ideology onto unwilling citizens. MPs are able to push for greater protection for themselves in the face of these assaults. What are they doing to also protect abortion providers and patients? How are they ensuring safe areas are established in a timely and effective manner? Relatively privileged MPs are now feeling the heat, but ordinary people and healthcare workers are well and truly scalded.

The Effects of Decriminalising Abortion

The Effects of Decriminalising Abortion

by Terry Bellamak

New Zealand is finally discussing abortion law reform. One of the first items of business on the government’s agenda is taking abortion out of the Crimes Act. This promises to make abortion easier to access, reduce delays, and reduce the unwarranted stigma around a procedure that is safe, routine health care.

Some folk have expressed a concern that taking abortion out of the Crimes Act will somehow make abortion less safe for people who decide to receive abortion care. 

In its comprehensive report on law reform, the New Zealand Law Commission considered the matter and concluded that fear was unfounded, for the following reasons:

  • All other health services are sufficiently protected by the health regulatory regime and by general offences in the Crimes Act. There is no reason abortion should be any different.
  • There are two groups of people whose actions are currently criminalised in relation to providing abortion care. Both would still meet with serious consequences for providing abortion care improperly even after abortion is taken out of the Crimes Act.
    • Health practitioners who provide abortion care without being qualified to do so, or who do not meet proper standards of care are subject to professional disciplinary action, and could also be charged with regulatory offences under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act or the Medicines Act. If they are negligent or fail to get informed consent from their patient, they could be charged with a criminal offence.
    • Unqualified people who attempt to provide abortion care can be charged with regulatory offences under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act or the Medicines Act, and their conduct may also constitute assault, injury, or wounding depending on whether the woman suffers actual bodily harm, and thus could be charged under the Crimes Act. 

It’s difficult to see how safety would be compromised if abortion care were regulated the same way as other medical care. Abortion care is very safe, and the earlier it is received the safer it is. Eliminating the delays our current laws promote would enable people to get abortion care earlier and thus more safely.

The report also makes the point that: 


Criminal offences are used to punish conduct that causes social harm and is considered morally reprehensible or inconsistent with important social values.

This treatment is inconsistent with treating abortion care as a health issue. Our current legal regime hypocritically criminalises abortion care while simultaneously fostering the practice of providing abortion in most cases, albeit in a manner that is cumbersome, patronising, and needlessly punitive.

By leaving this ridiculous system in place for over 40 years, Parliament has established it as the status quo. To try and pass off abortion care as morally reprehensible or inconsistent with important social values, Parliament would be making a liar of itself.

Taking abortion out of the Crimes Act will make abortion care safer, not less so.

An Interview With George Gair

by Alison McCulloch

Former National Party MP George Gair has died at the age of 88. Gair was key player in the abortion rights struggle in the 1970s that culminated in passage of the 1977 Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act, which we still have and under which abortion remains criminalised. Gair was the leader inside the governing George-Gair_avatar_1408424532-96x96National caucus of the liberal pro-choice faction, a role that ultimately led to his falling out with his leader, the then Prime Minister Rob Muldoon, a conservative on abortion rights. Although he didn’t take an unequivocal ‘woman’s right to choose’ position, Gair fought hard against the conservative factions in Parliament to try to liberalise the CS&A bill – a fight that was ultimately lost.

I interviewed George Gair for my book “Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand”, and exchanged correspondence with him as the book progressed. He was unfailingly kind and encouraging, and at the time I felt lucky to have been able to talk to him about just what had gone on inside the National Party caucus at such a pivotal time for abortion rights. I was very sad to hear of his death.

By way of tribute, or history, or something, I thought I’d post some excerpts from the interview I did, which was conducted on 12 March 2008 at Mr. Gair’s home north of Auckland.

In the National Party, how was it that you were – or ended up being – pro-choice, one of the few members of the party?

I had never had to address the question of abortion, certainly not seriously, in my family, to my best knowledge anyone in my family. The reason why I came to be interested in the first place is a rather unusual story. Let me tell you. Gerry Wall was the member of Parliament for Porirua, he was a Labour member, he was a doctor, but he was very pro-life – I don’t know if they called it that in those days – and I think probably a devout Catholic. He was also Speaker of the House at one stage. Now Gerry Wall introduced a bill, I’m sure it was in the form of a – inaudible – and he and some of those that were supporting him, this is in about 1974, referred to babies being murdered in Remuera. This was quite a serious allegation. (more…)