Latest New Zealand abortion Bill aims to gag pro-lifers

A Bill in New Zealand is threatening to prevent pro-life campaigners from speaking to women outside abortion clinics in the country, just months after MPs rejected the idea.

Restrictions on abortions were largely ditched in the country in March, and are now permitted up to birth for any reason.

But new legislation is proposed which would go further still, enabling the creation of ‘buffer zones’. Pro-lifers fear these will “deny women practical and emotional support outside abortion clinics”.

‘No free speech’

Within the zones, allegations of “intimidating, interfering with, or obstructing” a person seeking an abortion, or distressing communication with them, could result in arrest and a fine.

The Bill permits these restrictions as long as they are deemed to be “justified in a free and democratic society as a reasonable limitation on people’s rights and freedoms”.

In March 2020 MPs voted to remove references to buffer zones from the earlier abortion legislation.

At the time, one MP said that although they do not personally like pro-life campaigners, “to have a law where a minister can declare no free speech in an area almost on a whim, is not the kind of law I came to Parliament to make”.

More abortions expected

Prior to the law being changed earlier this year, abortion was only permitted in limited circumstances – when “necessary to save the life of the woman or girl or to prevent serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health”.

The number of induced abortions in New Zealand had significantly fallen from a peak of 18,511 in 2003 to 12,857 in 2019.

But that number can now be expected to increase, similar to that experienced in Victoria, Australia after abortion law was liberalised there in 2008.

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