Tuesday, August 06, 2019

A referendum on abortion?

This week, the government introduced its (underwhelming) Abortion Legislation Bill. And despite having negotiated the text of the bill through the coalition process, Winston Peters is now suggesting that he will demand a referendum on it:

NZ First leader Winston Peters has hinted that his party may only support the Government's abortion changes if they go to a binding referendum.

This last-minute positioning - after months of negotiation with Labour - has angered Justice Minister Andrew Little, who said any such position would be completely new to him.

Peters on Tuesday refused to clarify how his party would vote on the bill, which is up for its first reading on Thursday, or whether it would be a party-position or up to individual MPs.

NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell had suggested to media that the way NZ First considered the issue should go to the public.

This is a vile idea. Abortion is a matter of fundamental rights, and like marriage equality or torture or freedom of religion is simply not something we should be having referenda on. What part of "her body, her choice" remotely suggests you or I getting a vote about it? The whole point of law reform is to get other people out of that decision entirely.

The good news is that the bill is a conscience vote, and I don't think there's a majority there for a referendum. And if he tries throwing his weight around within the coalition over this, the Prime Minister should call his bluff and call an election on the issue.