Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman's abortion stance 'contradictory': Andrew Little

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Mark Mitchell
Health Minister Jonathan Coleman. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Mark Mitchell

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman's position that he is "happy" with current abortion law and is a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose has been labelled contradictory by Labour leader Andrew Little.

Debate on whether New Zealand's 40-year-old abortion law needs updating is building as new research reveals most Kiwis support abortion being legal across a range of scenarios, including if a woman doesn't want to be a mother.

Abortion is in the Crimes Act and legal only if two consultants agree that the pregnancy would seriously harm the woman's mental or physical health or that the fetus would have a serious disability.

The Abortion Supervisory Committee will make its annual appearance at Parliament's justice and electoral committee on Thursday, to report on how abortion law has been managed.

It has repeatedly urged Parliament to review the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act, passed in 1977 and which states the legal grounds for abortion.

Some of the wording is outdated and clumsy and the committee is often asked to clarify the legislation's intentions, particularly around referrals and consultation process, the committee has reported.

One example that speaks to the legislation's era is the fact doctors are referred to as "he".

Prime Minister Bill English on the weekend said the law had "stood the test of time" and didn't need to be updated, and today Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman backed that position.

"I'm happy with the legislation as it is at the moment, but strongly support a woman's right to choose."

Labour leader Andrew Little said such a position was contradictory.

"The law doesn't provide for the woman's right to choose. There are hoops to go through. It is time for a review."

Despite calling for abortion law to be modernised, Little will not commit to introducing legislation if in Government - Labour policy is to have the issue reviewed by the Law Commission.

The Green Party has already settled on policy to decriminalise abortion. Terminations after 20 weeks would be allowed only when the woman would otherwise face serious permanent injury to her health or in the case of severe fetal abnormalities.

Act leader David Seymour said the abortion laws were a charade, and if he did not already have a voluntary euthanasia bill in the private member's bill ballot he would introduce one to overhaul abortion rights.

"The ballot is filled with bills on everything from the wearing of military decorations to the length of Auckland's wharves," Seymour wrote on Facebook.

"It's disappointing to see grandstanding on this issue from Labour and Green MPs who fail to follow through with a sensible bill on abortion reform."

Little has said abortion reform should not be an issue for the private member's bill ballot.

New polling

Meanwhile, Curia research has released an abortion issues poll carried out in January for the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand.

The poll surveyed 1000 New Zealanders, with results weighted to reflect the overall voting adult population.

Respondents were asked if they supported abortion being legal in a number of situations. The results were:

- NZ Herald

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