Abortion law change not part coalition agreement.

abortion law

The deputy prime minister Winston Peters says that abortion law reform was not part of New Zealand First’s 2017 election campaign.

“You should pay attention to other parties’ policies. I know what their policy is,” he said referring to Labour’s election campaign.

“They campaigned on it. We didn’t,” Peters told Sky News on Thursday morning.

He also said that that there was no mention of abortion law changes in the Labour-New Zealand First coalition agreement.

New Zealand First will ask for a referendum

Peters has confirmed that the party would seek to add a referendum to the bill at its committee stage.

Justice Minister Andrew Little was taken by surprise, saying it was “a bit unusual” to raise it at this stage.

Peters said that Little should not have been surprised to learn that the party would push for a referendum on abortion law reform.

He said it has long been the party’s policy to seek a public mandate on conscience issues.

Peters says he’s not concerned that Little has said he doesn’t want there to be a referendum on the abortion bill.

“So that’s one member of 120, he’s got one vote just like everybody else.

“What about the other 119, let’s find out from them”, Peters said.

Martin apologies

The proposed law changes followed a series of consultations with New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin.

She told RNZ on Tuesday morning that the party had no plans to push for a referendum on the abortion bill.

On Thursday Martin told reporters one NZ First MP had at their caucus meeting announced she would be putting forward an amendment and that she went to see Little to tell him about it about 1 pm on Tuesday.

“And I apologised for the fact it had never come up,” she said.

That left Little facing questions about why he had told media he had not heard about the referendum at about 2 pm.

It was “only a minute’s difference”, he said.

The debate begins

On Thursday afternoon Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced the bill.

He paid tribute to National Party leader Simon Bridges who supported the bill at first reading, despite his Christian, conservative background.

In her speech, prime minister Jacinda Ardern asked those who disagreed with abortion not to allow their views to impede the rights of others.

National MP Agnes Loheni said abortion was a lifestyle choice.

“The reality is for the vast majority of women who decide to terminate their pregnancy do so for material reasons in their lives,” she said.

Labour MP Apuito William Sio said he was personally opposed to abortion but would vote in favour of the bill to improve it at select committee.

“I do not support abortion, but I am on the record that I support a woman’s right to choose,” he said.


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