Ex-senior Nat Amy Adams warns caucus over abortion issue position

10:05 am on 28 June 2022

Former National minister Amy Adams has warned her former party's caucus to acknowledge the strong feeling over abortion rights in New Zealand.

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Former senior National Party member says any party who attempts to erode the right to abortion would be dangerously out of touch. Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Adams told Morning Report any party who failed to treat reproductive rights as a health issue and stay clear of attempting to reform laws governing abortion rights would find themselves in a "very dangerous position politically".

The US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade means it is now up to individual states to decide whether to treat women who have an abortion as criminals, with some states having already imposed such laws.

That rollback of women's reproductive rights has resonated loudly in New Zealand.

Focus has turned to National Party leader Christopher Luxon's Christian views on abortion, while party MP for Tamaki Simon O'Connor was told by Luxon to take down a social media post that appeared to celebrate the removal of the legal right to abortion in the US.

Luxon has said the issue of abortion would not be on the agenda if his party was elected to power.

The issue is expected to be discussed at National's regular caucus meeting in Wellington today.

Former colleague Amy Adams told Morning Report the US abortion move was a horrifying reminder that no one could be complacent about hard-won freedoms. She said National would not attempt to change the law because of the reaction it would cause.

"New Zealand would, I believe, be utterly outraged and unaccepting of any suggestion of a question of a change to them. But we should be equally scared and outraged for our colleagues in the US who face a very uncertain future now," she said.

Adams said she would hope the caucus stood by their leader's position and accepted that the majority of women in New Zealand saw abortion as a health issue.

She said it was up to the caucus whether they treated it as a conscience issue or party policy issue, but she hoped the caucus would understand women in New Zealand felt very strongly on the issue.

"Politicians need to be mindful of the people they represent and what their views are and I think women, on the whole, are very, very clear. This is a health issue, it needs to be treated as one and any movement backwards would be very strongly opposed and fought."

Luxon had made the right statements over the issue, she said, and his own personal positions on the matter were a matter for him to deal with.

"That is something he will need to reconcile for himself," she said.

"It's important that he's clear with New Zealand what his government agenda would be and I'm very clear on is that any move by any major party in New Zealand, or minor party for that matter, to try to erode New Zealand women's rights to important healthcare issues would be absolutely out of touch with New Zealanders.

"Any party that doesn't recognise and make that very clear and doesn't move it that direction is in a very dangerous position politically."

National deputy leader Nicola Willis echoed her comments.

She told First Up caucus members were entitled to have and express their views, and a free society should be able to tolerate that.

"In the National Party we are a big-tent party and there is room for people who have different views from mine on abortion," she said.

"What is really important to me is we are clear as a party that this is not on our reform agenda. This is not an area where we're going to change the view."

Nicola Willis

Nicola Willis. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

But Willis said O'Connor's post went too far, calling it insensitive and distasteful, and that it was right for it to be taken down.

She called it a failure of judgment.

"I think we all recognise that it is a sensitive issue. We have strongly-held views on both sides of the debate. In my case, I'm pro-choice.

"I join many people around the world who felt that the Roe v Wade decision we all learnt of over the weekend was upsetting and I felt concerned for millions of women across America."

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