COMMENT: Abortion is such a loaded word, full of emotion and personal opinions -- warranted or unwanted.
Defined as the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, abortion, very simply, divides all those who choose to discuss it.
I've always been pro-choice. I believe every woman deserves the right to make her own informed choices about her own body.
Prior to having children I used to think abortion would be something I would consider if the circumstances ever arose.
Post-children, I'm unsure if I would, or could, consider it in the same way but this hasn't changed how I feel about a woman's right to choose.
Regardless of my circumstances I would never wish the right to decide for oneself to be taken away from them.
It's a sensitive topic which can divide families, friendship groups, popular opinion and fuel public anger.
Strong opinions on either side of the debate are well supported and informative depending on the angle of an opinion.
The new proposed bill which aims to decriminalise abortion has been a long time coming.
It is the first major reform for abortion in more than four decades.
Our very own Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick proposed an Abortion Reform Bill back in 2010 which essentially was to decriminalise abortion, taking it out of our New Zealand Crimes Act.
Currently abortion in New Zealand is only legal in cases where the pregnant woman faces danger to her own life, be it physically or mentally, or if there is a risk to the foetus being born with disabilities in the event that the pregnancy continues.
Sadly, when cases are not protected by these grounds, performing an abortion on a woman or girl is indeed a crime under the Crimes Act 1961.
This incredibly outdated law simply does not reflect the change in societal thinking, women's rights or pro-choice beliefs held by so many in our society.
The proposed law change would see women having the right to access abortions until 20 weeks of pregnancy without the added drawn-out process and stress of legal requirements that are currently in place.
If the reform bill passes into law it would mean that the doctor or clinic performing the procedure will have the professional requirement to "reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate with regard to the pregnant woman's physical and mental health and wellbeing".
"Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It's time for this to change," Justice Minister Andrew Little has said.
"Safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body."
While the changes in the bill are a start, both sides of the debate will still have and hold their own arguments for further changes or opposing the bill.
"It's not as good as it could have been, but it's so much better than the status quo, we have to give the Government props for that ... Overall, this is a huge step forward and quite an achievement," Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ president Terry Bellamak has said.
Of course there are always two sides of an argument and whether, put simply, a life is still a life.
I do believe further education around continued contraception, choices and not using abortion as a form of family planning needs to be further explored and promoted.
Circumstances such as rape, incest, genetic disorders and life expectancy of an unviable foetus seem easy to understand in regards to a termination, whereas a woman choosing to terminate yet another unwanted pregnancy due to failure of contraception or life circumstances can be harder to understand.
Bottom line, though, I do believe it is a woman's right to choose. Strong medical guidelines, correct informative discussions, counselling and safe processes are all vital in ensuring the right support is given to any woman considering an abortion.
Hopefully, if the law passes and abortion is no longer a crime, then more good will come out of this debate by allowing better discussions to happen around areas of contraception, education, women's safety and the right to access abortion if needed.