Former National MP Alfred Ngaro says MPs should be able to speak their minds on abortion after party leader Christopher Luxon effectively gagged his caucus airing views on the Roe v Wade decision.
National's socially conservative MPs have gone to ground after MP Simon O'Connor was forced to take down social media posts leader Christopher Luxon has called "triumphalist" and causing offence.
The US Supreme Court decision on Friday to overturn Roe v Wade and allow states to ban abortions has raised conversations here, particularly given Luxon is himself an Evangelical Christian opposed to the right to an abortion.
O'Connor posted "today is a good day" with love hearts on social media soon after the US ruling was announced.
O'Connor spoke strongly against abortion reform in 2020 during parliamentary debates, even finishing a speech with the Latin phrase: "Mihi vindicta: ego retribuam, dicit Dominus (Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord)."
(See full list of how MPs voted on abortion reform in 2020 at bottom of story).
Luxon was slow to comment on the US decision, with O'Connor's social media posts for several hours on Saturday the only public National Party comment.
National's leadership consulted with MPs and circulated a statement Luxon released on Saturday afternoon. It was agreed that was the caucus position on the issue before Luxon released it. O'Connor had posted prior to that happening.
That statement included the commitment that abortion laws would not be relitigated or revisited by a future National Government. Luxon has repeated this in several interviews since.
The Herald has been unable to contact National's current socially conservative caucus.
Alfred Ngaro, a National MP from 2011 to 2020 who has spoken out strongly against the right to an abortion, said Luxon's actions appeared to be a deviation from the standard party process on conscience issues.
"As I understand it, there is no party position on these conscience issues. It is purely an individual position that caucus members take.
"And you will see a number of [current MPs] voted against this, like myself when I was there."
Ngaro himself came under fire while an MP for insensitive comments about abortions.
In 2019 shared a post on social media which compared the issue of abortion in New Zealand with the Holocaust.
In 2020 then-leader Judith Collins had to intervene after he wrote on social media his Te Atatu opponent Phil Twyford wanted "abortion based on gender and disability", drawing much criticism.
He has also entertained the idea of setting up his own Christian party.
Asked what he thought of Luxon's assurances the topic of abortion would not be revisited in any future government he led, Ngaro said this could never be ruled out.
Ngaro said he agreed with comments from MP Shane Reti, who previously said on abortion and impact of US developments, "that would always be a decision for caucus, and so I'm not going to offer a position here now, but we are mindful in watching what happens with Roe vs Wade".
Reti has not responded to requests for comment.
"There will come a time where, again, you'll have to ask the questions, you have to review these types of legislation," Ngaro said.
"You may not change the legislation, but you may look at actually what's working and what's not working.
Abortion was decriminalised in New Zealand in 2020, passing by a narrow margin with 68 MPs in favour and 51 opposed.
Of the major parties Labour, which put forth the bill, had nine of its MPs oppose and 37 vote in favour.
In National, the majority of its MPs opposed the law, 35, with 20 in favour.
Of National MPs who opposed, 13 remain in Parliament.
Luxon, who was not an MP at the time of that vote, this morning told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking the issue with O'Connor was not expressing his view but the way he went about it.
"It is a pretty sensitive issue. People are feeling pretty bruised and distressed, understandably, on the other side of that conversation and there is a bit of sensitivity needed.
"There is no need for being triumphalist about it. If that is his position I didn't want it causing any offence to any people."
Luxon laughed when asked if it was frustrating, given his personal views, to be asked these questions every time the topic came up.
"I have to be straight up. I have a personal pro-life stance on this issue. It is the same on euthanasia, the same on the death penalty.
"Others have different views. I am not taking away that choice to have what is often an incredibly agonising and difficult decision.
"In Simon's case he is entitled to his view and in our caucus there are a range of views on a range of topics, on this there are a range of pro-life and pro-choice sides of the conversation.
"The challenge we had is his view was out there, and his personal view was being interpreted as the National Party view and it actually wasn't.
"We both had a chat and felt that is not what we want to be represented
"Whether you are pro-life or pro-choice everybody [in the caucus] is united by the fact we will not revisit or relitigate those laws in any future government."
National deputy leader Nicola Willis, who is pro-choice, said the party was being "crystal clear" that these laws would no be "relitigated or revisited".
She also pointed out there were Labour MPs who had voted against abortion reform too.
"There are MPs who voted against abortion decriminalisation and accordance with their personal beliefs. And I think they remain entitled to that view."
She said Labour was creating "needless anxiety" by stirring debate.
"I actually think that these attempts by Labour to import US-style culture wars into New Zealand is irresponsible. It is creating needless anxiety."
Her comments come after this morning Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told Newshub he thought Luxon needed to make his view on abortion clear, pointing a comment in 2021 that he believed abortion was akin to murder.
"He managed to put out two statements in two days over the weekend and previously he's said that abortion is akin to murder," Robertson said.
"Mr Luxon might be saying convenient political things now, I think people know where he really stands and obviously people will judge on what he says as well as his actions."
Robertson told Newshub Luxon needed to be clearer about how exactly he would ensure the topic would not be revisited.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said shortly after the US ruling it was a "loss for women everywhere". She said people were "entitled to have deeply held convictions on this issue".
"But those personal beliefs should never rob another from making their own decisions."
How New Zealand MPs voted on abortion reform in 2020
The Abortion Legislation Bill, to decriminalise abortion, at its third reading in 2020:
Clare Curran (no longer an MP)
Ruth Dyson (no longer an MP)
Kris Faafoi (MP until July 23)
Raymond Huo (no longer an MP)
Willow Jean Prime
Aupito William Sio
Louisa Wall (no longer an MP)
Amy Adams (no longer an MP)
Paula Bennett (no longer an MP)
Dan Bidois (no longer an MP)
David Carter (no longer an MP)
Andrew Falloon (no longer an MP)
Brett Hudson (no longer an MP)
Nikki Kaye (no longer an MP)
Anne Tolley (no longer an MP)
Nicky Wagner (no longer an MP)
Jian Yang (no longer an MP)
Jenny Marcroft (no longer an MP)
Tracey Martin (no longer an MP)
Julie Anne Genter
Gareth Hughes (no longer an MP)
Jami Lee Ross (no longer an MP)
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (no longer an MP)
Maggie Barry (no longer an MP)
Sarah Dowie (no longer an MP)
Paulo Garcia (no longer an MP)
Nathan Guy (no longer an MP)
Jo Hayes (no longer an MP)
Matt King (no longer an MP)
Denise Lee (no longer an MP)
Agnes Loheni (no longer an MP)
Tim Macindoe (no longer an MP)
Alfred Ngaro (no longer an MP)
Parmjeet Parmar (no longer an MP)
Alastair Scott (no longer an MP)
Nick Smith (no longer an MP)
Tim van de Molen
Hamish Walker (no longer an MP)
Jonathan Young (no longer an MP)
Lawrence Yule (no longer an MP)
Darroch Ball (no longer an MP)
Clayton Mitchell (no longer an MP)
Shane Jones (no longer an MP)
Ron Mark (no longer an MP)
Mark Patterson (no longer an MP)
Winston Peters (no longer an MP)
Fletcher Tabuteau (no longer an MP)