Jacinda Ardern believes 'large number of people' will support abortion law reform

The Prime Minister is confident a "large number of people" will support the proposed abortion law changes which are set to have their first reading in Parliament. 

Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday she's aware it's a controversial topic and one people feel strongly about, "but we have not modernised our legislation since 1970". 

"What we're suggesting here is taking it out of the Crimes Act and I think a large number of people would support that," Ardern said in Wellington. 

"Parties will have their own perspective on this, and members will have their own perspective on this conscience vote and I expect that individuals will speak differently, even within their own parties."

The Prime Minister's comments follow Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters suggesting earlier this week that the proposed reforms should be put to a referendum. 

Peters told reporters on Tuesday that pushing for a referendum was on the cards, and has confirmed that his party will seek to add a referendum to the proposed law at the select committee stage. 

He told Sky News on Thursday that abortion law reform was part of Labour's 2017 campaign, but it wasn't part of Labour's coalition agreement with New Zealand First. 

"You should pay attention to other parties' policies. I know what their policy is. They campaigned on it. We didn't," he said. 

When asked why it should be a referendum issue, Peters said on Thursday: "I've watched all sorts of ill-qualified politicians with fanciful ideas, totally removed from the public, thinking they can give the public expression."

Ardern defended Peters, saying it was "no surprise to me to hear suggestions that different Members of Parliament will seek to do that and that's all just part of the process". 

That's despite Justice Minister Andrew Little being caught off guard on Tuesday, when he admitted he wasn't aware that New Zealand First was seeking a referendum on the issue. 

When asked if he considered it bad faith, the Justice Minister said at the time: "It hasn't been raised with me before - people can draw their own conclusions."

Ardern had a different stance, telling media on Thursday: "I take no grievance from people taking different positions."

She said the legislation is "different" in that it's "not a Government Bill". But it's Andrew Little's Bill, and he's a Government minister. 

"We've tried to do is create a Bill that has as much consultation across the board as possible because it's ultimately a Bill that individuals in Parliament will be voting on," Ardern said. 

The Justice Minister used Parliament on Tuesday to make the point he has "no plans to organize any referendum other than the one on cannabis".

He's said he's "fairly" confident that the proposed law has enough support to pass its first reading in the House.