There is still a lot of misinformation about the abortion process. Photo: Getty Images
There is still a lot of misinformation about the abortion process. Photo: Getty Images

The BulletinAugust 6, 2019

The Bulletin: How abortion laws will change

There is still a lot of misinformation about the abortion process. Photo: Getty Images
There is still a lot of misinformation about the abortion process. Photo: Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Shape of abortion law reform announced, dramatic night plays out at Ihumātao, and opposition brews to Catholic Cathedral decision in Christchurch.

The reforms to abortion law have been formally announced, and they will fulfil a long-term promise from the PM and her government. Abortion will be removed from the Crimes Act, and it will be treated as purely a health issue. Leonie Hayden at The Spinoff has an excellent guide to how the law will change, and what that  will mean for women seeking the procedure.

They key change is that up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, a woman seeking an abortion won’t have to get permission from two certifying doctors – it will be entirely the woman’s choice. After 20 weeks, there will be reasonably strict regulations governing when an abortion can be procured. It’s a more restrictive regime than any of the three proposed by the Law Commission, but advocates have supported it on the grounds that it’s better than the status quo. Justice minister Andrew Little told Q+A last night that the regulations would not allow abortion “right up to birth”, calling such suggestions “absurd.”

There will, of course, be heavy opposition to the law change. It’s an issue where for many opponents, there isn’t really a middle ground or compromise position, because they are utterly opposed to it in principle. That’s not going to be solved by taking this more conservative option. Family First, for example, are among the groups who say it removes protections from unborn children – and that terminology alone is relatively symbolic of the differences in world view that make this such an intractable issue. Because of this opposition, Little says it’s possible that ‘safe zones’ will be established around clinics on a case by case basis, reports One News, as they are currently regular sites of protest.

However, I’d also like to take this opportunity to highlight stories of women who have had abortions under the current system. Once a silent, taboo topic, now women are much more likely to speak out. Four women spoke to The Spinoff about their experiences getting the procedure, with long wait times and numerous hoops to jump through. At Newsroom, Emma Espiner wrote eloquently about an abortion she had, and how restricting access makes conditions more dangerous for women. And Villainesse have published an exhaustive guide to the process under the current system, which gives those who haven’t gone through it an idea of why so many women have pushed for change.

There were widespread social media reports of increased police presence at Ihumātao last night. It appeared that police were attempting to put a line in place to stop people getting to protesters on the front line, and box the front line in – a tactic known as kettling. The standoff ended late last, after extra people arrived to stand with SOUL, before both sides pulled back.

Why did the police send so many extra officers in on an otherwise nondescript Monday night? According to this report on the NZ Herald, it was “to maintain order and ensure there is no breach of the peace”. Speaking to the AM Show this morning, PM Jacinda Ardern said she still had no plans to visit the site, and said government would try to facilitate talks between parties. On the ground, she urged de-escalation, and said police bringing in extra numbers was “a decision for the police.”

In Christchurch, the 113 year old Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament will not have earthquake damage repaired, reports The Press. Costs were estimated at around $149 million, but Catholic bishop Paul Martin has announced that instead the church will look to spend about $40 million on a new cathedral. Heritage advocates are outraged, and are vowing to fight it, but Christchurch Regeneration minister Megan Woods is backing the church’s decision.

An Army Corporal has admitted to assaulting and humiliating a junior ranked soldier at a court martial, reports the NZ Herald. He said he had felt disrespected by the soldier, so the next day punched him repeatedly before presenting his injuries to other soldiers. Corporal Daniel Turua deeply apologised to the victim, expressing remorse and shame. He will be stripped of two ranks and imprisoned in an army jail for 28 days.

An update from yesterday’s story about the organisational culture at the Civil Aviation Authority: Newshub reports that transport minister Phil Twyford was warned a year ago about sexual harassment and bullying being “openly tolerated” by CAA management – though the minister later denied prior knowledge about it. The concerns were outlined in a letter from CAA chairman Nigel Gould last year, and obtained under the OIA.

This is surely one of the stranger tales ever told about the Auckland property market. The NZ Herald reports a student, who had put down a $60,000 apartment deposit without pre-approved finance, has been unable to get it back on failing to convince a bank. But what makes it bizarre – the real estate agent who brokered the deal is reportedly her own mother. The money came from an inheritance from her father, who died two years ago.

The Reserve Bank could well cut the OCR even further this week, down to a record low of 1.25%. Interest’s Jenée Tibshraeny has taken a hard look for what that would mean for wider economic policy, and what threats the government might face. In particular, with the labour market, there will be questions over just how much more economic activity can be sustained, though there are also suggestions that the number of people who are under-employed have been under-estimated.

Here’s a wonderful feature about a midwife with the weight of the world on her shoulders. Stuff’s Michelle Duff has profiled Corrina Parata, who drives 4000 kms each month as the sole midwife around the East Cape. The work she does is nothing short of heroic, and it’s really cool to see it featured like this.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Don Rowe writes about the shooting in El Paso, Texas, and the damaging continuing ripples of the Christchurch attacks. Graham Adams writes about whether National MPs who oppose euthanasia are onside with their voters. Duncan Greive writes about the meaning of two massive TV commissioning jobs coming up at the same time. Johnny Crawford covers the relationship history between humans and rodents in New Zealand. And I report on liquidators making a very public statement against the people behind the blog formerly known as Whaleoil.

Here’s a story to keep something of a watch on. Later this month, blogger Martyn Bradbury will be in court against the police, over being caught up in police actions relating to Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics. Bradbury gave his side of the case over at The Daily Blog – here’s an excerpt:

In 2014, I was deeply involved with the MANA Party and talking to Kim Dotcom re his Internet Party. I was also leading the fight against the SIS and GCSB from obtaining mass surveillance powers. That there was surveillance on me and that the Police gained my banking records without any search warrant made me furious, but that the Police were now trying to hold the trial in secret simply shocked me beyond articulation.

Whatever you think of my politics, whether you vote National, Labour, NZ First, ACT or Green – we can all agree that to allow the Police to hold a secret trial using secret evidence in a court battle over their misuse of power is a precedent that simply must not be allowed to happen.

The Super City Rangers have been kicked out of the National Basketball League, reports Stuff. The troubled franchise was unable to pay their debts, both to players and the league itself. They finished utterly uncompetitive, after having to release star overseas import players. The league itself will be played with nine teams next year.

In the cricket, I want to know how you feel about this result. Australia have thumped England in the first Ashes test – here’s a match report from ESPN Cricinfo – thanks to heroic batting from Steve Smith, and lovely crafty spin bowling from Nathan Lyon. So thinking about the World Cup, which team do you want to see lose this series more?

And finally, there has been much celebration of the life of Sir Brian Lochore, who died over the weekend. There’s a great obituary from the All Blacks website, which covers his life in rugby. He was also a noted conservationist in later life, and Newshub reports one of the tributes has come from the QE II Trust for that work.

From our partners: With several high profile government objectives in the spotlight, a single ministry could drive better outcomes across them all. Robyn Holdaway, senior policy advisor at Vector, makes the case for a Ministry for Energy.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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