Pro-choice lawmakers and advocates in New Zealand celebrated Wednesday after Parliament voted to remove abortion care from the country's Crimes Act, classifying the procedure as a matter of healthcare rather than criminal activity.
The move was the result of more than four decades of campaigning by women's rights groups and was heavily pushed by left-leaning lawmakers including Jan Logie, a member of New Zealand's Green Party.
"At last," Logie wrote on Twitter after the bill passed in a vote of 68-51.
"It's been a really long time coming. Today I hope we will come out of the sexual and reproductive time warp that we've been stuck in for over 40 years," Logie told the New Zealand Herald.
After abortion care was included under the Crimes Act of 1961, a woman who obtained an abortion could legally face up to 14 years in prison and was required to obtain the approval of two doctors who concluded carrying out a pregnancy would endanger the patient's mental or physical health.
Although women have not been held liable for prosecution despite the law, Justice Minister Andrew Little said Wednesday it was necessary to officially remove abortion care from the Crimes Act to protect women.
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"From now abortions will be rightly treated as a health issue," Little said in a statement. "The previous law required a woman seeking an abortion to go through many hoops. The changes agreed to by parliament will better ensure women get advice and treatment in a more timely way."
On social media, lawmakers and New Zealanders celebrated Parliament's decision.
Very proud of our Parliament tonight. There are people everywhere who will quietly benefit from this in intensely personal wayshttps://t.co/uyrJpsfCol
— Fleur Fitzsimons (@FleurFitzsimons) March 18, 2020
Historic moment. Massive congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard for so long to get this change! And my deepest respect to @janlogie for her long leadership on this. https://t.co/obGFWIETZq
— Marama Davidson MP (@MaramaDavidson) March 18, 2020
This is special. To all the activists, experts, every human being who ever had to personally fight for equal compassionate access to healthcare:
thank you pic.twitter.com/oHt524XG0O
— Golriz Ghahraman (@golrizghahraman) March 18, 2020
"Finally the New Zealand parliament has brought abortion legislation into the 21st century—it only took 44 years," Terry Bellamak, director of the advocacy group Alranz Abortion Rights Aotearoa told The Guardian. "Finally after 44 years, New Zealand parliament has recognized that women have bodily autonomy—and that is huge. Being able to control one's fertility is key to one's life—it is hard to see how we could achieve equality without that."