New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern predicted the bill would gain majority support.
Several thousand women who back abortion rights took part in public demonstrations to end criminal laws against abortion. Abortion advocates like Terry Bellamak, national president of the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, praised some changes to the bill, including stronger laws against protestors outside of abortion clinics.
Her Feb. 18 comments faulted a change that gives an option to abortion providers not to be listed on the director-general's list, saying this will make it harder for women seeking abortions.
"It means the government anticipates some providers may not want it generally known that they provide abortion care," said Bellamak, suggesting this was due to fears of "harassment" outside clinics.
Bellamak objected to provisions for conscientious objection, including new provisions protecting those who object to some treatments for sexual assault victims. Some health providers object that some drugs billed as emergency contraception have properties that can cause abortions if an unborn child has been conceived.
She also objected to the lack of requirements that health providers provide notice that they object to what the pro-abortion group considers "reproductive health care."
National MP Agnes Loheni, a member of the select committee on the abortion bill, wrote a minority report critical of the proposal. She warned that if enacted the bill will "severely breach and irreparably damage the 'sanctity of life' principle which has been the cornerstone of New Zealand's common law."
"Our current abortion law seeks to balance the rights and autonomy of the expectant mother against the interests of unborn human life," she said, charging that the proposal "removes the human rights of the unborn child completely."
She rejected claims that the current law criminalizes women, noting that no woman has been charged with having an unlawful abortion in New Zealand. The law aims to "protect women from unlawful abortions" and in fact criminalizes only those who perform abortions against the law.
She called for a royal commission to investigate whether changes are needed.
Loheni also faulted the minimal restrictions after 20 weeks into pregnancy, noting that this would allow abortion "until the moment of birth."
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"I know people get really uncomfortable with that, but at the end of the day, that is what the law will allow, there is no upper limit on that test," she said, according to RNZ News. Loheni criticized requirements for a woman seeking an abortion to consult with a physician, saying they were too minimal.