MP Slams Sham Process of Abortion Select Committee

Media Release 14 February 2020
National MP Agnes Loheni – a member of the abortion select committee – has slammed the process of the committee, saying in her minority view that she disagreed with the select committee’s decision and criteria used to “deliberately and intentionally restrict the number of oral submissions on such an important matter, particularly one which comes with heartfelt and well-considered opinions. This includes the voices of abortion survivors, those conceived in rape, and other important stories directly relevant to the matter.”

“Agnes Loheni is exactly right. The Select Committee considering radical changes to our abortion laws admitted that it muzzled almost 95% of submitters who wanted to speak in person to the committee on the issue. This means that more than 2,700 submitters from both sides of the debate were denied the ability to engage with the politicians about this controversial bill. Either the committee were in a rush to ram this legislation through, or they just didn’t want to respect the rights of submitters to be heard in person by the committee. We suspect it’s both reasons,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The committee admits that 91.6% of the written submissions oppose the bill, which backs up Family First’s earlier analysis.”

Agnes Loheni also questioned whether there is even a need for changes to New Zealand’s current abortion legislation, and that the committee had been asked to consider the bill without addressing the larger question of the need for liberalisation of the law. She also criticises the misrepresentation of the current law: “In the Minister of Justice’s speech at the First Reading of this Bill, it was suggested that legislative change is necessary because women are criminalised by our current abortion laws.  No woman has ever been charged with having an unlawful abortion. This sentiment misrepresents the reality and intention of our current abortion legislation under the Crimes Act 1961.”

“No other issue quite cuts to the heart of our humanity and life than the issue of abortion – and that is why there has been a strong reaction with 25,776 written submissions in the extremely short timeframe of six weeks. This is a significant piece of legislation involving life, death and human rights of our most vulnerable.”

“Family First has been contacted by lawyers, pregnancy counsellors and organisations, medical professionals including midwives, bioethics experts, national organisations, and women & families with powerful experiences – even a woman conceived as a result of rape – that need to be heard by the committee but have been denied the right to speak to and clarify points made in their submission.”

“Significant consideration and extreme caution should be given to this bill – because if we get this wrong, there are deadly consequences. The select committee risks rushing the process purely for political convenience and ignoring the important human rights ramifications.”

WATCH Jacqui’s testimony – which was blocked by the committee

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