'Go Amy!' National MP praised for abortion speech calling out intolerance from religious groups

National MP Amy Adams has been praised for her speech during the abortion law debate in which she called out intolerance from religious groups and urged church leaders to stop teaching "contraception is a sin".

New Zealand First MP and Cabinet minister Tracey Martin applauded the speech, writing "Go Amy!" on Twitter and telling the National MP to "stand with pride". 

The Women's Rights Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo described Adams' speech as "a strong and articulate expression of why this law change was so necessary".

She said while the Bill and legal framework aren't perfect, the Government "must now ensure that women and pregnant people have access to reproductive health information and quality service throughout the country". 

Adams, who plans to retire from politics after the election, worked with Justice Minister Andrew Little in 2019 on the Abortion Legislation Bill to remove abortion from the Crimes Act, because women have had to use a loophole to make it legal.  

The Women's Rights Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo.
The Women's Rights Commissioner Saunoamaali'i Karanina Sumeo. Photo credit: Supplied

The legislation passed its final reading in Parliament on Wednesday night, and during the third reading, Adams made her support for it known, despite many of her colleagues speaking out strongly against it. 

"I find it somewhat staggering that those who preach freedom of expression and religious tolerance the most are the least tolerant of those who are supporting this legislation," Adams said in her speech. 

"If religious leaders in our community want to do something about unwanted pregnancies, then perhaps they could stop teaching that contraception is a sin. That would go a long way towards advancing the views and the rights of women."

National MP Amy Adams speaking on the Abortion Legislation Bill.
National MP Amy Adams speaking on the Abortion Legislation Bill. Photo credit: Parliament TV

Adams, who said she was "happy" to brand herself a feminist, thanked the Justice Minister for introducing the legislation to Parliament to change a 44-year-old law so that it "isn't outdated and incredibly paternalistic". 

Tracey Martin and her New Zealand First colleague Jenny Marcroft - the only two women in the party's caucus - were the only New Zealand First MPs to vote for the legislation. 

Martin, who also worked with the Justice Minister on the Bill, opened up about her support for safe abortions in August last year, revealing how a lack of access to safe abortion services cost her grandmother's life.  

Martin dedicated her vote to her grandmother, Beverly. 

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick, whose entire party voted for the legislation, thanked Martin for her vote, and wrote: "Politics is personal."

Adams' speech followed on from National MP Simeon Brown, a conservative Christian, who said he was "disheartened" by the way he felt perspectives brought forward by religious lawmakers had been "waved away". 

"I'm opposed to this Bill, not because of the tenets of any religion, but because of scientific, philosophical, and ethical premises which I hold to as clear and logical," he said. 

"I would plead with members of this House not to allow themselves to hide behind the excuse that those who disagree only do so because they are influenced by ideology or religion or something else. To do so only shows blindness and the fact that we are all influenced."

Strong opposition also came from National MP Simon O'Connor, also a Christian, who blasted women for supporting legislation that would "knock out half the babies that are girls". 

"Well done there ladies!--or modern feminists," he said. 

National MP Simon O'Connor delivered an impassioned speech in Parliament.
National MP Simon O'Connor delivered an impassioned speech in Parliament. Photo credit: Parliament TV

National MP Agnes Loheni, who has strongly opposed the Bill and even produced her own minority report separate from the Abortion Legislation Committee, also defended her religious beliefs. 

"I have found it disturbing that some members in this House have called for members like me to be open and honest about my lens view, and they want to know if I am religious or not. Why is that?" she said. 

"Is it because underlying this call is the perverse idea that religious views can be automatically discounted, excluded--mocked, even--in relation to the debate on broadened abortion laws?"

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty said while he is Catholic, he has "faith in women to make a choice that is right for them" and believes it's "wrong" that women have to "pretend that there is a threat to their mental stability in order to get an abortion". 

Labour MP Michael Wood said he respects the rights of lawmakers to express their religious views on the legislation, but he said that is "not correct" in this case. 

"This debate is about, in my view, whether we have an honest piece of law that governs abortion in New Zealand, or the existing 1970s compromised hotchpotch of a law, which puts abortion in the Crimes Act."

More details about the Abortion Legislation Bill and the third reading can be found here.