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National MPs call for abortion reform

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 14/03/2017

<span style="font-size:13px;">Prime Minister Bill English says the committee's proposed "modernisation" would be a liberalisation and the government has no plans for that.</span> © Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images Prime Minister Bill English says the committee's proposed "modernisation" would be a liberalisation and the government has no plans for that. National MP Kris Faafoi thinks a member's bill to update abortion law would come close to having the numbers to pass parliament.

The abortion advisory committee's calls for an update of abortion legislation, currently contained in the Crimes Act, have divided New Zealand's politicians.

Prime Minister Bill English says the committee's proposed "modernisation" would be a liberalisation and the government has no plans for that.

If legislation did come up, the pro-life Catholic would not support it.

But while he has the backing of his Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, caucus colleagues Mr Faafoi and Kris Bishop are on the other side.

Mr Faafoi told TVNZ said the stigma of containing abortion in the Crimes Act was outdated after 40 years and that society has moved on.

"It's a health issue, it's a mental health issue for a lot of women and to have it within the Crimes Act I think is not right," he said.

"I think if a member's bill was pulled out of the ballot it would get pretty close to passing. I think there is enough advocacy on this issue now and it's obviously getting a bit of traction now that gives weight to those kinds of things."

Mr Bishop said there was a range of different opinions within the National caucus and while the PM has one view, he has another.

"I think it is a bit strange in some ways it's in the Crimes Act for starters and there is some language in there that is archaic so there probably does need to be a tidy up there," he said.

Act leader David Seymour became the latest party leader to back abortion law reform on Tuesday, describing current laws as a "charade".

"Nobody believes that 97 per cent of women who have abortions are mentally ill, but that is what we are expected to believe according to official statistics," he said.

"The right thing to do is to reform abortion law to reflect what actually happens: women exercise choice for their own reasons."

Mr Seymour said he would seriously consider a members' bill on the issue if he didn't already have his euthanasia bill, another "important moral issue" in the ballot.

Labour leader Andrew Little said current legislation is "well overdue for a review and modernisation", something both he and his party support.

NZ First leader Winston Peters on Tuesday called for debate and a vote on the issue.

"Our position has always been that this matter should not be decided by temporarily empowered politicians," Mr Peters said on Tuesday.

"We need a 12 to 18 month debate on the matter and then ask the people of this country - the proper process, a binding referendum."

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