Barry Soper: The issue Parliament avoids like the plague

Barry Soper,
Publish Date
Friday, 9 August 2019, 9:14AM


No one that I've ever known is relaxed at the prospect of having an abortion.

There's been a lot of poppycock talked about abortion over the years, like it's a form of contraception, which couldn't be further from the truth.

It's an issue that's avoided in Parliament like the plague and the fact that law hasn't been changed for more than 40 years is testament to that.

There have been attempts but they've been voted down, or an election has intervened and the untouchable topic is left to lie.

The bickering on the latest attempt allowing women up to 20 weeks pregnant to decide on an abortion after consulting their doctor has been going on behind the scenes for weeks.

At the centre of it, as is always the case, is New Zealand First.

The mild-mannered Tracy Martin was given the job as the party's emissary to the bill's sponsor, Justice Minister Andrew Little.

In Parliament during the debate a highly emotional Martin told us what went on behind the scenes, and in doing so highlighted just how difficult it can be, particularly for Little, working with the coalition partner.

She'd been talking to the former Labour leader for months and at no time, she said, did she raise the prospect of a referendum on abortion and she made that point publicly.

On the same day as she was saying that, the New Zealand First caucus met and the intention of introducing the referendum amendment was raised for the first time and it received majority support.

So Little was blind-sided and for that Martin said she was sorry.

Her boss Winston Peters said there was nothing to be sorry for, the party has always said issues like this would be for the public to decide and not some temporarily empowered politicians.

Just to underline his point looking at the quality of his colleagues he said it was obvious Kiwis can take a joke.

Perhaps they should reflect who the joke is on.

And while they're at it, maybe they should ponder the Prime Minister's proposition - the abortion law reform bill isn't a Government bill.

Jacinda Ardern said it repeatedly which is mind-numbing.

Of course it's a Government bill, to reform the law was part of Labour's election campaign and now it's in Government.

The fact that MPs have a conscience vote on it doesn't change its status and she should know that.

As to the referendum, it'll never happen so at least that'll be one less thing to think about at the ballot box next year.

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