COMMENT:

As parliament, and New Zealanders as a whole, engage in passionate debates about the subject of abortion, many people seem to be taking positions that completely miss the point of the whole debate.

Last week, it was former Prime Minister Bill English who described late-term abortions as acts of "extreme violence".

He's not the only one who has resorted to scaremongering in an attempt to make a point. Anti-abortion campaigners have long been flooding the internet with images of foetuses and using emotionally charged language to appeal to the heartstrings.

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It's a normal thing with these matters of the heart. People start off with good intentions but get sidetracked because their passion clouds their rational judgement.

It's never a good sign when I feel like I have to be the voice of reason but here we find ourselves. When it comes to the abortion debate going on in New Zealand, here's what the issue is: whether or not you think abortion should be removed from the Crimes Act.

Here's what the issue is not: whether or not you think abortion is a good or a bad thing.

No one is asking anybody whether they think abortion is morally right or wrong. Yet that seems to be the question many are answering.

What is up for discussion is whether the current system is fair, whether women and health professionals deserve to be put in jail for it.

No one is trying to argue abortion is a good thing. No one does it as a hobby, no one does it for fun, no one does it for the sake of it, or out of laziness or even as contraception (and whoever tells you they've heard of people who do is probably lying or has been tricked into believing that).

You know who thinks abortion is bad even more than you do? Women who've actually had to go through it.

No woman chooses to go through an abortion. It is a heavy-hearted decision to make to put oneself through a painful and traumatic procedure. It's not something any woman takes lightly - please do not believe that no matter how many stories you hear of friends of friends who've had three or four abortions and counting.

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Ultimately, we're all very much against that, especially the women who have to go through it.

This is about whether or not you think abortions should be done safely.

You can be anti-abortion, on principle, and still agree that it should be done safely rather than unsafely. These two things are not mutually exclusive. You can think "women shouldn't have abortions" and also think "but if they're gonna happen, abortions should be done safely".

READ MORE:
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Live: Abortion law passes first vote in Parliament 94-23
Sweeping abortion law changes: Woman's right to choose until 20 weeks

Thinking any other way is being ignorant to the reality that abortions are going to happen anyway, no matter what. They're happening today, right now, probably as I type this.

Like Nickelback or YouTube ads you can't skip, abortions are one of those universally hated things. But they happen regardless of your personal views on them.

Legalising something isn't about moral approval. It's about ensuring what is already happening - and will forever happen - happens in a safe manner.

You can hate the very thought of abortions (who doesn't?) and you can also agree that women should be safe.

The abortion issue goes way deeper than this. It's a matter of body autonomy, it's a matter of gender equality, of individual rights and, don't let anyone convince you otherwise, it's a matter of privilege.

Removing abortions from the Crimes Act will not vastly increase the amount of women seeking abortions because an abortion is not a thing you do just because you can. However, it will stop women being treated like criminals for having to make heartbreaking decisions that cause a level of trauma many are lucky enough to never have to experience.