Extra security was added to the parliamentary committee hearing submissions on abortion law reform this week after a serious threat was made against a Christchurch-based MP.
The chair of the Abortion Legislation Committee, Labour MP Ruth Dyson, declined to comment on who the threat was made against, but the Herald understands it was Wigram MP and senior Cabinet Minister Megan Woods.
A spokesman for Woods said he would not comment on any matter relevant to the security of Woods or her staff.
Dyson said a man made the threat during the committee's hearings in Auckland on Tuesday.
"Security came to our clerks and said, 'A serious threat's been made, it's linked to abortion, you guys are meeting in Christchurch where the threat was made, we're going to put in security.'
"It was directly in response to concerns about this man, given we were meeting at a hotel with no security. It's just a hotel. There's people coming and going all the time."
Dyson said a security guard was at the committee's four-hour session in Christchurch yesterday.
"The guy was sitting in the corner by the door the whole time. He didn't have to do anything. It was really emotional but everyone was really respectful of each other and the process."
Parliamentary Security confirmed that one police officer in plain clothes was stationed at the meeting.
Dyson said she knew who the threat was aimed at, but would not comment further.
"I don't think it's helpful to share that."
Abortion is an emotive issue, but Dyson said that threats were unusual in New Zealand politics.
"We get people telling us what they think, but it's very rare to have a serious threat made to any of us, and when we do, we take it seriously. We have to.
"I've done some pretty contentious legislation, including the marriage equality bill, and was fairly heavily involved in the homosexual law reform bill. The tone of debate has greatly improved since that time.
"It is a reflection of the maturity of society that we can have fundamental differences and still be able to respect each other."
Dyson said it was the first time security had been present for the committee, and it was unlikely to be needed in the future as the remaining hearings were at Parliament, where there is constant security for people coming and going.
The bill would remove abortion from the Crimes Act.
Currently, women need clearance from two doctors on grounds of mental or physical risk to get an abortion. After 20 weeks an abortion currently needs to save the life of the woman.
About 98 per cent of abortions are performed under the mental health clause.
The new law would mean there would be no legal test for earlier than 20 weeks.
Any later and the person performing the procedure will have to "reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate with regard to the pregnant woman's physical and mental health, and wellbeing".
There have been more than 25,000 written submissions on the bill, and the committee is hearing 150 oral submissions up until the end of the year.
It will report back on the bill at the start of February next year.