Monday, August 05, 2019

Labour chickens out on abortion

When she was standing for office, Jacinda Ardern promised she would take abortion out of the Crimes Act. Labour followed up on that by referring the issue to the Law Commission, which duly produced a series of options. Health professionals were crystal clear in supporting complete decriminalisation. But instead of that, Labour has taken the most conservative option, then made it worse, imposing a test for women to access an abortion after 20 weeks. Such abortions are almost always performed for medical reasons, and so should be a health issue, but instead Labour is going to make women continue to endure the wagging finger of society if they need proper medical care.

While the bill is obviously an improvement on the status quo, the additional test is simply bullshit, and another example of Labour chickening out. They promised to listen to medical professionals, and they haven't. While a technical delivery on their promise, its a substantive failure.

The bill will get its first reading this week, and go to select committee. While this is a conscience issue, the select committee will reflect the government's agreed position with its coalition partner, so we won't see substantive policy change there. If we want that, then someone will have to try and amend the bill at the committee stage to remove this odious provision and make abortion a purely medical decision. The question is whether Labour MPs will support that, or whether they will refuse to in order to avoid upsetting their bigot rump and their conservative coalition partner.