Image from Simeon Brown on Facebook. National Party leader Christopher Luxon (R) and MP for Pakuranga Simeon Brown (L) are both anti-choice.
By Alma De Anda, Abortion Rights Aotearoa Co-Treasurer
On 18 March 2022, a law was passed in Aotearoa to allow for the creation of ‘safe areas’ around abortion service providers to protect staff and patients from intimidation from anti-choice protestors. (This is following the removal of safe areas from the initial Bill decriminalising abortion in 2020, thanks to the ACT party.) Yet, as I type this, there have been NO safe areas established around any abortion provider in the entire country due to the unnecessarily arduous process to implement one. Former ALRANZ (Abortion Rights Aotearoa) President Terry Bellamak wrote about this in March. Three months later and there is still no progress.
The safe areas amendment passed because the government acknowledged abortion care is healthcare and should be treated as such. Despite this approach, implementing safe areas has proved to be an arduous process. This means anti-choice, anti-abortion extremists can still get together to harass anyone (patients or staff) entering or exiting abortion care facilities. We use the word ‘extremists’ in this context because it is extreme and dangerous to believe that a government or any one person has a right to force someone to stay pregnant against their will.
ALRANZ receives messages from concerned citizens wondering why people are still harassing abortion seekers and abortion providers if it’s unlawful. We must reply and explain the tedious and ridiculously long process that leaves providers and patients exposed to violence and harassment each day after an abortion provider’s application is received. A hopeful time estimate for the completion of the process is at least six to nine months.
If this glacial progress is what we have under a pro-choice government, one wonders what it would be like under one lacking the political will to implement abortion law reform. If a National or a National/ACT government win the next election, we could see the advancement of abortion access and abortion equity across Aotearoa die from purposeful procedural stagnation.
Abortion rights do not exist in a silo, and ALRANZ knows people have a wide range of beliefs about God and religion. ALRANZ has no issue with religious freedom, what we are concerned with is the Christian nationalism seeping its way into politics in Aotearoa. We know several key members of the National Party are actively and vocally opposed to abortion rights, as well as other human rights related to sexuality, race, and gender.
Party leader and MP for Botany Christopher Luxon is anti-choice and believes abortion is tantamount to murder. That implicitly means Luxon believes that one in four women in Aotearoa are murderers. Similarly, Tāmaki MP Simon O’Connor was overjoyed at the overturning of Roe v Wade, which ended the constitutional protection for abortion in the United States. O’Connor is also a fan of appearing on podcasts and YouTube channels to talk about the “annoying” topics of race and gender. (I won’t link to those, but if you want to look for them yourselves, you will find them. I do not recommend it though.) MP for Pakuranga Simeon Brown was “holding back tears” at the thought of abortion law reform and, as demonstrated when he voted “no” alongside seven of his National colleagues at the third reading of the Bill banning conversion therapy, thinks it is OK to tell LGBTQIA+ youth that his God does not approve of their ‘lifestyle’. Likewise, Northland-based MP Dr Shane Reti has personal views in direct conflict with abortion and LGBTQIA+ rights allegedly because of his Catholic faith. Reti would become the Minister for Health under a National government. How would he, or any of these other high-profile National MPs, advance or even conserve abortion rights in Aotearoa?
The short answer: they won’t. The National Party might not undo abortion law reform like what is happening in the United States. However, as the safe areas stagnation demonstrates the government does not have to introduce specific legislation to stifle abortion access. All they have to do is drag their feet on any aspect around abortion service delivery and they can still say, “See, we did not touch abortion law reform.”
And they would be correct, but they would not do what 74 per cent of New Zealanders want regarding abortion – to properly implement choice for all.