'Full-term' abortion claims are 'fictional' - Andrew Little

Andrew Little says abortion opponents are using "fictional" scenarios to push their views.

The Justice Minister says claims the Abortion Legislation Bill, which would take the procedure out of the Crimes Act, will result in "full-term" abortions is simply not true.

"Ninety-nine point five percent of abortions in New Zealand currently happen within 20 weeks. It's a very small percentage that happens after that," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday.

"It happens after that because of extreme threats to women or the foetus, and you've got to have that little bit of flexibility. But the extravagant language we get of 'full-term abortions' and women walking in at 36 weeks saying 'I want an abortion', it just doesn't happen. It's fictional stuff." 

His comments come after ex-Conservative Party CEO and former head of the Ministry of Social Development claimed the change in legislation would allow babies ready to be born to be aborted instead.

"To think of a full-term abortion, that's murder, that's a living, breathing baby and we're talking about it's going to be okay, no sorry it's not okay," Rankin told The AM Show.

"They're saying beyond 20 weeks in circumstances they agree with they can have an abortion."

Statistics NZ data actually shows 99.6 percent of abortions happen before the 20-week mark. Under the proposed legislation, a woman would have to pass a statutory test in order to qualify for an abortion after 20 weeks.

Little said he was surprised by the level of support the Bill got at its first reading - expecting to get a "slim majority". 

"I got a sense as the week wore on that maybe these numbers could be quite good - but I was still surprised that it was over 90."

He doesn't expect NZ First's surprise demand for it to be put to a referendum to derail the process.

"We'll proceed with this legislation. If NZ First wants to put a referendum up, let them put it up. They can stand in the queue with everybody else."