The New Zealand Catholic bishops are deeply disappointed that Parliament passed the Abortion Legislation Bill at its third reading by a margin of 68 to 51 on March 18. That was the final vote on the bill in Parliament. With the royal assent given by the Governor-General on March 23, it is now law.
“This [piece of legislation] totally ignores the fact that there are always at least two human lives involved in every pregnancy,” said a spokesperson for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, Ms Cynthia Piper.
“There is no longer any recognition of the rights of the unborn child in this new law,” said Ms Piper, a lecturer for the Church’s Te Kupenga – Catholic Leadership Institute, speaking on behalf of the bishops.
“That is a travesty of human rights. To hold that the foetus is not a legal person ignores the reality that a genetically unique human life has begun which is neither that of the mother or the father. That the law fails to recognise this does not change what is a biological and human fact.”
The bishops’ conference also believes the new law will fail many women.
“Those of us who have experience of supporting women with so-called unwanted pregnancies, or women who have had abortions, know only too well the coercive realities that drive many women to have an abortion that they later regret,” said Ms Piper.
“That is why we have argued consistently that it is in women’s best interests that the legal pathway to an abortion needs to be robust. This law does nothing to help those women who, for a variety of reasons, choose an abortion because they feel they have no other choice, whether that is because of partner pressure or for economic or social reasons.
“Neither does this law do anything to reduce the overall number of abortions, something that a majority of New Zealanders have consistently said they want. It has been rushed through and is ill-considered in so many ways.”
Furthermore, the bishops are absolutely dismayed that MPs voted down a host of sensible amendments that would have made the new legislation much more compassionate, said Ms Piper.
“These included amendments that would have required babies born alive to be cared for like any other child, a ban on sex-selection abortions and a ban on disability discrimination abortions.”