Comments in which Whanganui MP Harete Hipango accused Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of "astounding hypocrisy" have been labelled "silly" by Justice Minister Andrew Little while Ardern has called for MPs views to "be based on facts".
In a social media post Hipango compared Ardern's support of New Zealand's new abortion laws and her comments about infant mortality and how the country could do more to support people going through it.
"This recent stance by the PM is rank and riles me as a woman who is a mother and has also advocated for children's welfare all my professional working life as a lawyer," Hipango wrote.
"The hypocrisy is astounding."
The Abortion Legislation Act came into law on March 24, allowing women unrestricted access to abortion within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. After 20 weeks a doctor — after consulting at least one other qualified health practitioner — would have to agree an abortion was appropriate, having regard to the woman's physical and mental health and "overall wellbeing".
The bill was passed on March 19 with a 68-51 majority with members of all parties using their conscience vote on the day.
National MP Simon O'Connor shared Hipango's post and commented that the Government "pushed through" the law ahead of the Covid-19 lockdown, and said aborting a full-term baby "sure has" been legalised.
Little told RNZ Hipango's comments were "silly".
"If Judith Collins is happy to have a bunch of radical, anti-abortion extremists running the show on social media, that's a matter for her. If she wants to rein them in she should do, if she's happy to let them go then no doubt she'll do that."
He said it was "stupid stuff and it would be sad if anybody believed there was any such thing as full-term abortion — there isn't".
"It's pretty bad when people in responsible positions, elected positions, community leadership positions, run those sort of lines — it's just silly."
Ardern said every MP had a right to their own views.
"But all I ask is that they're based on fact."
Ardern said she'd seen the legislative changes characterised in a way that didn't reflect the law change.
There were around 13,000 abortions in New Zealand last year, according to Statistics New Zealand. Only 57 of those took place after 20 weeks' pregnancy. On a per-capita basis the rate has been falling the past decade.
Hipango told the Chronicle her issue was the Prime Minister "in my view, is devaluing the importance of life, particularly the extension of the period, post 20 weeks, up to full term".
"All I'm saying is, let's look at the consistency of how we value people's lives, and I still think that a baby in utero up to full term is a human being and is a child's life, in the same way that comments have been made about stillbirths and miscarriages and what supports are put in place," she said.
"The wording in the bill is very clear, and very specific.
"I'm not suggesting for a moment that a woman would just change her mind last minute with a healthy baby, that's not the point, the point is what the law permits and how it's worded.
"The law still permits a child who is pregnant not having to confer or engage with their key family members, and teachers or counsellors are finding out and these kids are being taken to have a termination without guardians or caregivers who are guardians.
"I speak very strongly about this, because I practised in the area of child welfare and I'll maintain the value and importance of people's lives and those who are in vulnerable positions."
When questioned by NZME, National Party leader Judith Collins, who also voted in favour of the bill, said she couldn't speak on whether Hipango had misrepresented Ardern by saying she supported full-term abortions because she hadn't seen the post.
"I assume Harete is speaking from a position of her own belief — she's a very strong Catholic and her views are her own and they are not mine," Collins said.
"It is certainly not something that we have a party position on. I personally voted for the legislation. Harete is very strongly opposed to the legislation and the National Party people are allowed to have views that are not necessarily my views."