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Abortion modernisation not a priority: PM

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/03/2017

Changing laws around abortion, including removing it from the Crimes Act, aren't a priority for Bill English.

The prime minister has rejected calls for a review and update of abortion laws as "liberalisation" and says the current laws have stood the test of time.

The abortion advisory committee has called for a modernisation of abortion legislation, which is still contained in the Crimes Act 1961.

Mr English, a socially conservative Catholic, says he's not pro-choice and told TVNZ's Q&A programme on Sunday that he wouldn't vote for legislation to change abortion processes.

"I think what [the advisory committee] mean is liberalise it and we wouldn't do that," he said.

When it was put to him on TVNZ's breakfast programme on Monday that abortion doesn't belong in the Crimes Act, Mr English responded "that's one view of it".

"The legislation that parliament has before the country now, which has operated for a long time now, means people getting abortions have to go through certain processes and it's not a priority for the government to change it," he said.

But Mr English noted it would be a conscience vote issue and he is just one vote of 121 in the parliament.

Whether his vote as Prime Minister sets the tone for other MPs is something he would like if it means "not rushing in to big changes in abortion law".

Labour's new deputy leader Jacinda Ardern believes many New Zealanders would be surprised to know abortion laws were contained in the Crimes Act.

She wants to see the advisory committee's recommendations pursued and says while it's a conscience vote doesn't think lawmakers should stand in the way of accessing a choice that should be their own.

"My position on this has always been, regardless of what my view is, why should I impose that view on others and remove their choice," she said.

Leader Andrew Little also backs the recommendations.

"I support women's choice," he said.

"The legislation has been around for the best part of 40 years. It does need to be reviewed and upgraded and I agree with Jacinda, we should not have it in the Crimes Act. It's not a crime."

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