Author: Eska-Mikołajewska, J
Published in National Security Journal, 05 April 2021
Other significant initiatives of pro-abortion ALRANZ was an open letter to Parliament urging abortion law reform, signed by 35 organisations, including New Zealand Family Planning and Amnesty International New Zealand, and over 1500 famous personalities, including former Prime Minister Helen Clark. In addition, there were marches on Parliament in both 2018 and 2019, which gathered hundreds of protestors.67 On the other hand, anti-abortion groups that campaigned against changing New Zealand’s abortion laws such as Family First NZ or not explicitly Catholic such as Voice for Life and Right to Life have had the institutional support from the Catholic Church.68 What is more, the Catholic doctrine had a disproportionate influence on New Zealand politics and policy. This was indicated in the report from the Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion from 1977 because most arguments based on church-based morality were used.69
The Catholic Church continues to dominate the anti-abortion movement in New Zealand in the 21st century as well. However, even if Church funded anti-abortion lobbying groups increased their activity between the 1990s and 2010s, it did not result in any important electoral or legislative change success. Catholic bishops lobbied the Abortion Legislation Select Committee, making submission that was opposed to the Abortion Legislation Bill, however, to little effect. The position of the Catholic Church was based on the assumption that the proposed law effectively removed all legal protections for the unborn, especially as it was inconsistent with Section 182 of the Crimes Act that was still in force.70 That is why we can consider that the Church has considerably less influence in New Zealand now than in the 1970s.
Meanwhile, critical to criminalisation of abortion issue was the UN CEDAW Monitoring Committee, which in its complaint described the New Zealand abortion law as discriminating against women’s human rights. However, before this case was passed to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, the Abortion Legislation Bill was introduced to Parliament.71 The United Nations Human Rights Council has also added its voice to the growing support for New Zealand removing abortion from the Crimes Act. During the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR), many UN member states recommended that New Zealand remove abortion from the Crimes Act and began to treat abortion as a health issue. The United Nations Human Rights Council in the content of its recommendations clearly indicated that abortion law is inconsistent with human rights treaties and international standards. The adoption of the final reports of the UPR in June 2019 obliged New Zealand to immediately respond to the recommendations it has received.72
What both MPs, Copeland and Chadwick, were unable to do in the 2000s, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did. Her government has sought to align the national abortion legal framework with the health approach that fulfils Labour’s 2017 election campaign intention.73 The passing of the bill is seen as a win for Ardern’s centre-left coalition party, that was one of Prime Minister’s promise when she was elected for the first time.