Justice Minister Amy Adams rejects calls for abortion reform

Justice Minister Amy Adams said she was not considering wholesale abortion reform.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Justice Minister Amy Adams said she was not considering wholesale abortion reform.

Justice Minister Amy Adams is ruling out abortion reform, as thousands sign a petition calling for an overhaul of New Zealand's legislation.

Abortions are still illegal under the Crimes Act, and may only be carried out if pregnancy poses a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother.

They are also permitted in cases of incest or fetal abnormality, but there's no exception for rape victims.

Student Sarah Batkin launched a petition to legalise abortion in New Zealand.
CRAIG HOYLE/FAIRFAX

Student Sarah Batkin launched a petition to legalise abortion in New Zealand.

Student Sarah Batkin, 23, launched the petition on Change.org to raise awareness of the murky legal status around abortion.

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"My tactic is to make a big fuss, and bring it into New Zealand's collective consciousness," she said.

Greens spokesperson for women Jan Logie said the current abortion system was dishonest.
SUPPLIED

Greens spokesperson for women Jan Logie said the current abortion system was dishonest.

Batkin said it was particularly offensive that people had to turn to their mental health to justify having an abortion.

"I think it's dishonest and quite cruel actually to make women pretend that they're mentally unwell," she said.

A woman who signed Batkin's petition described how she found herself in that position.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said abortions were a health service, not a justice service.
FILE

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said abortions were a health service, not a justice service.

"When I had my abortion, I had never been clearer in my thinking, yet I was compelled to say my mental health was at risk from the pregnancy," she wrote.

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"Two very sane and reasonable doctors were compelled to lie in order to support me."

Jan Logie, Green spokeswoman for women's issues, said it made no sense to make people fake their mental health.

"There's a degree of dishonesty in the current system, and that doesn't serve anyone," she said.

"People want to live with integrity, and we should be supporting that."

The Greens are the only political party in New Zealand that backs comprehensive abortion reform.

Other politicians are happy with current abortion law, among them Justice Minister Adams.

"Abortion is a deeply personal issue and has traditionally been left as a conscience issue for MPs, and that's appropriate," Adams said.

"Wholesale reform of abortion law is not something I'm currently looking at."

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond agrees abortion is a personal issue, but questions why it's overseen by the Ministry of Justice.

"This is a health service, not a justice service," she said.

"[Our current legislation] is broken, it's old, and we're getting out of step with other countries. At some point someone's going to have to bite the bullet and make changes."

Logie suggested abortion isn't as much of a political hot potato as some politicians fear, given that one in four women in New Zealand have had an abortion.

"There's a real mismatch between the political unwillingness to talk about it, and the general acceptance of it in society," she said.

Batkin believes women should have the right to choose, regardless of whether public opinion is on their side.

"A lot of the discussion comes back to having to justify why we want to have an abortion, and why we want to have good, easy access to reproductive healthcare," she said.

"But it shouldn't be that way. We shouldn't have to justify ourselves."

Abortions peaked at 18,511 in 2003 but have been steadily dropping since then, aside from a brief increase in 2005 and 2006.

There were 13,155 abortions performed in New Zealand in 2015.

 - Stuff

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