29 Oct 2018

Simon Bridges: Abortion law change a 'conscience issue' for MPs

12:28 pm on 29 October 2018

National Party leader Simon Bridges says it is "important to debate" changing New Zealand's law on abortion.

Simon Bridges in the RNZ Auckland studio for an interview on Morning Report.

Simon Bridges (file) Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Last week the Law Commission delivered a 300-page report to Justice Minister Andrew Little, which outlined abortion law reforms that would remove abortion from the Crimes Act and repeal the need for two doctors to authorise the procedure.

In May this year Mr Bridges said overall the current system was working well, and he did not see a case for change.

However Mr Bridges told Morning Report women's health must be the primary focus of any policy position and the commission's report would be discussed at the party caucus.

"I'm going to sit down and read the report, as I understand it, it doesn't in fact come to conclusions," he said.

"We're going to discuss it at the National Party caucus. I think the almost certain position will be this is a conscience issue for individual members of parliament."

When pushed as to why he had changed his personal, publicly-expressed opinion on the matter, he said the commission's briefing would need to be looked at before giving any further comment.

"I've always been reasonably conservative on these things, but I accept it is important to debate them," he said.

Under the commission's recommended Model A there would be no statutory test before an abortion could be carried out and the decision would lie with the woman in consultation with her health practitioner.

Under Model B, there would be a statutory test but it would be in health legislation, outside the Crimes Act. The health practitioner would need to reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the woman's physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Model C would combine aspects of A for pregnancies under 22 weeks and Model B for those over 22 weeks.

The commission proposed either repealing the criminal offence for abortion or limiting it only to unqualified practitioners.

'Reluctant monarchist'

Meanwhile, Mr Bridges told Morning Report he was a "reluctant monarchist", because the monarchy offered value in that it was a conservative force that provided a stability to New Zealand's constitutional arrangements.

He said he was against New Zealand becoming a republic with an elected president of its own.

Mr Bridges met Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in Wellington yesterday and talked about their five-day trip to New Zealand.

Regarding troubled former National MP Jami-Lee Ross, who is struggling with a mental health issues, Mr Bridges said there was no benefit commenting on his situation further.

He said he had not been contacted by police over Mr Ross' allegation that Mr Bridges had breached electoral donation law in relation to a $100,000 donation from a Chinese businessman. He said he did not expect to be contacted by police over the "ludicrous" claims.

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