Organised by five groups, the March for Life – touted as a counter-protest to this a similar pro-choice event earlier in the week – drew a large crowd to Wellington’s Te Ngākau Civic Square on Saturday.
The several-hundred-strong crowd then marched through the central city to the grounds of Parliament to listen to a number of speeches by family advocates and National Party MPs, including Simon O’Connor and Alfred Ngaro.
The march comes on the back of the Labour-led Government’s proposal to remove abortion from the Crimes Act, as well as a Law Commission report into the topic earlier this year.
In October, the commission released its briefing paper examining alternatives to abortion law, following Justice Minister Andrew Little’s proposal to make abortion a health issue rather than a criminal one.
Family Life International NZ’s spokesperson Michelle Kaufman said it was that “health issue” idea that had sparked the protest action.
“Abortion is not healthcare … Healthcare is about providing the medical needs of patients. It does not end the life of one for the convenience of the other,” she said.
“Today we march in defence of the right to life and proper health care of pre-born children and their mothers. Today we offer hope.”
THE CURRENT LAW
The Crimes Act 1961 determines the grounds for an abortion as being: a pregnancy under 20 weeks that can be serious danger to life, any form of incest or sexual relations with a guardian, mental subnormality and foetal abnormality.
Extremes of age and sexual violation can also be taken into account but aren’t grounds in themselves.
After 20 weeks’ gestation the grounds are different. Abortions can only be performed to save the life of the mother or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother.
For terminations under eight weeks, women can be given pills and have the abortion at home. After that, abortion is a surgical procedure.
Any new legislation would be a conscience vote.
The New Zealand abortion rate increased slightly in 2017 to 13.7 abortions per 1000 women, compared to 13.5 in 2016, according to Statistics NZ.
In total, 13,285 induced abortions were performed in 2017, an increase of 462 (3.6 per cent) on the previous year.
About one in every five pregnancies ended in abortion, the data showed.