Former National justice minister says NZ abortion law must stay – alternative is ‘soul-destroying’

Abortion rights activists march on Constitution Avenue to the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC
Abortion rights activists march on Constitution Avenue to the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC ... the court ruling overturning 50 years of abortion rights has sent shock waves around the world. Image: RNZ/AFP

By Craig McCulloch, RNZ News deputy political editor

Former National MP and Justice Minister Amy Adams says opposition leader Christopher Luxon is right to rule out restricting abortion laws in Aotearoa New Zealand, calling the alternative “absolutely soul-destroying”.

Speaking to RNZ, Adams also sounded a note of warning to her socially conservative former colleagues that their views are increasingly “out-of-touch” with the public.

Shortly after taking the helm of National, Luxon — who describes himself as “pro-life” — committed not to change abortion laws if elected prime minister next year.

Following Friday’s Roe v Wade decision, Luxon went further, stating: “These laws will not be relitigated or revisited under a future National government, and these health services will remain fully funded”.

Amy Adams.
Former Justice Minister Amy Adams … she says some socially conservative National MPs are increasingly out of touch with the New Zealand public. Image: Rebekah Parsons-King/RNZ

Adams told RNZ anything other than an unequivocal assurance would have put Luxon in a “very bad” position.

She said the vast majority of New Zealanders regarded abortion as a health issue.

“There is no place whatsoever for politicians and lawyers and judges to start determining what health procedures women are entitled to,” Adams said.

Conservative politicians ‘in peril’
“When political parties wade into that space, they put themselves in great peril and they risk getting substantially out of touch with those people they represent.”

Adams said the US Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v Wade was “outrageous” and “should scare women all over the world”.

“We can get quite complacent that our progressive movements… are set in stone, but actually it shows us that things can be undone and freedoms we perhaps take for granted… can be taken away from us,” Adams said.

“I felt quite sick… it made me really sad and actually very, very angry.”

National Party leader Christopher Luxon
Opposition leader Christopher Luxon … says his party is united in its commitment not to change abortion law. Image: Angus Dreaver/RNZ

Luxon: ‘I serve the common cause’
On Saturday, Luxon directed his Tamaki MP Simon O’Connor to remove a Facebook post showing support for the US Supreme Court ruling.

O’Connor posted “today is a good day” surrounded by love hearts.

Speaking to RNZ on Monday, Luxon said he felt the message was being “misrepresented as the National Party position”.

He said O’Connor was entitled to his own personal views but also believed the message was “insensitive to people on the other side of that debate”.

“It’s a sensitive and distressing issue, and I want to make sure that New Zealanders understand there will be no change under a National government.”

Luxon said all his MPs were united around the commitment not to change abortion law if elected next year.

“I serve the common cause of all New Zealanders,” Luxon said. “I’m not just here for one group or one interest or one topic.”

O’Connor did not return RNZ’s calls.

Grant Robertson
Acting Prime Minister Grant Robertson … has questioned if Christopher Luxon will follow through on his commitment. Image: Samuel Rillstone/RNZ

Questions also for Labour
Speaking at the regular post-Cabinet media conference, Acting Prime Minister Grant Robertson questioned whether Luxon’s assurance could be trusted.

“It’s great news if that is what Christopher Luxon says he’s going to do,” Robertson said.

“But I could also understand why people could be sceptical about that given what he has said in the past [and] given that over half of his caucus actually voted against [abortion reform].”

Robertson was also questioned over Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s tweet calling the Supreme Court ruling “draconian” despite voting against removing abortion from the Crimes Act.

He said Mahuta had dealt with the issue in accordance with her conscience and deferred questions to her.

“The Labour Party continues to support women in New Zealand to be able to access abortion services and to have reproductive rights. We passed the legislation, it was a government bill, and I stand by what we’re doing here.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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