Leader of New Zealand’s resurgent opposition (Labour) party Jacinda Ardern has pledged to decriminalise abortion if they win this month’s general elections.
Under current laws in New Zealand, abortion is a crime with some exceptions provided. Ardern said unequivocally during her 90-minute, fiery, televised leader’s debate that abortion shouldn’t be in the Crimes Act. The 400-strong audience comprising of undecided voters responded with a huge round of cheering and applause, putting “Jacindamania” on display.
Jacinda said that it was about people having a choice to make their own decisions. While she does acknowledge that people will disagree with abortion, she wanted them to have it as their right to either give birth to a child or abort.
The sitting Prime Minister and National leader Bill English thought that the existing law was “broadly satisfactory”. He is also a practising Catholic. His “I support the current law…” was met with stoic silence from the same audience.
In over a decade, polling results placed Labour ahead the National party for the first time, up from 26% to 43%, under Ardern as its youngest leader ever.
The housing shortage, New Zealand’s economy and how to deal with the US President Donald Trump all featured as part of expected discussion. A surprise was also sprung when English committed that about 100,000 New Zealand children will be taken out of poverty. While Ardern applauded it, she also said that she has been pushing such a goal for over nine years now.
Ardern reasserted herself and said that she would stand up to Australia to ensure New Zealanders are not treated like second-class citizens there. She also said that if Australia was going to raise the cost of tertiary education to New Zealanders in Australia, then the Australian students should expect a similar treatment here (New Zealand).
Ardern didn’t restrain her voice last year too, when the dual citizenship of the deputy prime minster Barnaby Joyce was revealed.
Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand’s national president Terry Bellamak said that she was very happy to hear Ardern’s commitment to decriminalising abortion. She also noted that while 98-99% of abortions in New Zealand are done based on mental health grounds, abortion continuing to remain under the Crimes Act is a stigma for the women – either to access it when in dire conditions or even talk about it later.
Terry also said that “… Decriminalising abortion would make it easier to tackle issues … more openly.”