New abortion law marks significant and needed progress for reproductive rights in New Zealand

Amnesty International has today (22/10/19) made its submission to the Abortion Legislation Committee in Wellington.

The rights at stake in the legislation include the rights to health, privacy, dignity, security of the person, bodily integrity and personal autonomy, equality and non-discrimination, equality before the law, and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Amnesty International Executive Director Meg de Ronde said that Amnesty International’s approach is underpinned by international human rights law, including the recognition that legal protection of human rights, including the right to life, commences at birth.

“Amnesty International does not take a moral position on when life begins. This is a moral and ethical issue for each pregnant individual to decide as a matter of their own conscience.”

She told the committee that the ability to make decisions about one’s body, sexuality and reproduction are at the core of gender, economic and social justice.

“Amnesty International recognises the right of every person to access abortion, provided in a manner that respects their dignity and needs in the context of their lived experiences, circumstances, aspirations and views.”

The organisation also made recommendations to the Committee on aspects of the Bill in need of further review, including ensuring that provisions governing counselling, conscientious objection, and gestational limits do not create unjustified barriers and delays to accessing reproductive health services.

It also made a recommendation in relation to “safe zones” outside clinics to ensure that the Bill both adequately protects the rights of people to access abortion services without harassment, and prevents any unintended consequences relating to restricting freedom of expression.

De Ronde added the changes proposed will ultimately increase people’s ability to exercise their reproductive autonomy, which is essential to the full realisation of human rights in New Zealand for women, girls and all people who can become pregnant.

“The reforms to the current regime, including the removal of abortion from the Crimes Act and removal of several consultants having to sign off on an abortion are a significant change and a much needed one.”