NEW ZEALAND – Anti-abortion clause to remove abortion clinic safe zones from an otherwise progressive abortion bill passed when no one was paying attention

In February 2020, the Select Committee ofthe NZ Parliament received more than 25,000 submissions on the abortion lawreform bill, which if passed willremove abortion from the CrimesAct.

On 9 March 2020, in its second reading, in a confused vote inParliament, MPs did away with part of the Abortion Legislation Bill thatwould have made legally protected ‘safe zones’ possible outside abortion clinicson a case-by-case basis. MP David Seymour’samendment to the bill was voted on in two parts – the first, to have the definition of safe zones removed fromthe bill, was narrowly voted down 59 votes to 56. Some MPs thought thatmeant the safe zones were safely still in the bill.

But there was a second part. That was to do away with all the provisions that would put safezones in place. And with the second part, the Deputy Speaker Anne Tolley took the vote as a voice vote only,and declared that it had been passed. Thusremoving the safe zones from the bill. When questioned from the floor byseveral MPs what they had just voted on, she refused to give way and insisted herinterpretation of the voice vote would stand. This was totally unexpected andthere has been quite a lot of upset as a result! For Seymour, the safe zoneswould have set a dangerous precedent against freedom of expression, which isalways how the anti-abortion movement rejects safe zones, which are in factsites of harassment, not free speech.

However, the third and final reading of the bill, at the endof which it will be voted upon, is yet to come. Efforts to reverse the decisionto remove safe zones from the bill is, we understand, going on behind thescenes.

SOURCES: RNZ,by Yvette McCullough, 11 March 2020 ; RNZ,by Charlie Dreaver, 14 February 2020 ; PHOTO: © Newshub at MSNNews, 25 July 2019