Anti-abortion campaigners at Hawke's Bay Hospital say a 150-metre "safe zone" around abortion clinics as part of a sweeping law reform would be an "attack on freedom of expression".
Justice Minister Andrew Little announced the proposed legislation yesterday, which would remove abortion from the Crimes Act, and instead treat it as a "health issue", saying it was "time for change".
Little said the safe zones, which would be created on a localised basis, would stop people protesting and handing literature to people seeking abortions in these zones.
"Approaching a woman going to an abortion clinic and throwing leaflets and pamphlets in her place or chanting various dreadful epithets at them for going through with that health decision is pretty dreadful," Little said.
Voice for Life's Hawke's Bay media spokeswoman and educator Kate Cormack said she was "really shocked and saddened" by the news, saying it was "extreme".
Cormack is a member of the Pro-life Hawke's Bay outreach team who stand outside Hawke's Bay Hospital every Thursday - the day the region's abortion clinic is open.
She says they are a "peaceful group" who offer "help, hope, information, and really practical support for anyone who would like it".
She said the safety zone will "actually prevent women from accessing the alternative care that they need and want".
"We are all law-abiding citizens and we simply want to be there at that last final opportunity to reach out to a mother in need and to help her and her whanau to talk about different ways.
"The idea that there is more to it than that is very misleading from the government and when we have pressed them of the claims they make there is nothing to back it up."
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She said they often had women who had already sought an abortion share their story.
"From what the stories are, they need protecting from the abortion clinics, not from us," she said.
The legislation also proposed removing any statutory test from doctors for a woman who is not more than 20 weeks pregnant.
Little said: "This Bill will modernise the laws on abortion, by removing it from the Crimes Act and bringing the law into line with many other developed countries".
Little said safe abortion "should be treated and regulated as a health issue", and that a woman "has the right to choose what happens to her body".
As it currently stands, abortion is an offence under the Crimes Act, and women have to use a loophole to make it legal.
Two medical practitioners have to agree the pregnancy would put the women in physical or mental danger to allow her to proceed with the abortion.
The draft law went through the Cabinet Committee last month, and the legislation will have its first reading on Thursday, when it will need at least 61 votes from MPs to pass.
It will be treated as a conscience issue, meaning Members of Parliament can cast their votes independently at each stage of the Bill's progression through.
Napier Labour MP Stuart Nash said it was "important" in the 21st century for women to have control over their own bodies.
"I don't think it is up to me or anyone to tell them what they should or shouldn't be doing.
"It's one of these tricky conscious votes that we are having to have again in Parliament but it's an important issue that we need to debate.
"Gone are the days where we have this patriarchal attitude where we say women can and can't do this," Nash said.
He said it was up to women to be able to "determine their own path whether we agree with it or not" and put structures in place to ensure that any help anyone needs in making the decision is there, "but ultimately it is up to the decision of the woman".
Tukituki National MP Lawrence Yule said while he will come to a decision, he believes it is necessary to take his time in reaching one.
Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri said she is "quite divided" in making her decision.
On one hand, she values life, but at the same time, she is "conscious that women should have a say over their own bodies".
She said taking it out of the Crimes Act is the right thing to do.
"I understand and I support what they are doing, just culturally though, that's the bit that is the grey part to me," Whaitiri said.