No plans to reverse abortion 'safe zone' scrapping

Late-night confusion saw abortion 'safe zones' abolished without a personal vote from MPs.

But Justice Minister Andrew Little’s office has confirmed to Newshub he has no plans to attempt to reinstate the 'safe zones' in abortion legislation.

Little's accepted defeat, telling Newshub "the safe zone provision was always the most marginally supported. It’s not clear whether there are the numbers for the SOP, but the substance of the Bill remains. That will be the focus going forward."

Parliament is currently debating reform that’ll see abortion removed from the Crimes Act, and women less than 20 weeks’ pregnant able to self-refer for an abortion. Abortions are currently performed after sign-off from two doctors, and on the grounds continuing the pregnancy would endanger the woman’s mental or physical health.

The Bill would have allowed hospitals and clinics to apply for a 150m 'safe zone' around the premise, within which protesters couldn’t "interfere" with or "impede" patients or staff members.

On Tuesday night, inattention from MPs saw the mechanism for the 'safe zone' element of the Bill nixed, thanks to an amendment from Act leader David Seymour. 

Seymour broadly supports the legalisation, but holds free speech concerns about the precedent set through the creation of 'safe zones'.

Deputy Speaker Anne Tolley said a verbal vote on the amendment delivered a "yes" to the passing of Seymour’s amendment.

MPs should then have called a personal vote but failed to. It's a process MPs have been following for all conscience votes, most recently through the End of Life Choice Bill.

A personal vote would have seen the numbers of "yes" and "no" tallied up, and may have gone either way. Green MP Jan Logie attempted to call the vote but was too late.

The first part of Seymour’s amendment scrapping safe zones failed to pass, but narrowly. It had support from New Zealand First and was the second part that slipped through without a personal vote.

It’s understood 'safe zone' supporters have options for undoing the legislative hiccup, but doing so would require support from either National or New Zealand First, or would need support from right across the House.

Seymour told Newshub, "I think people are making a bigger deal of the way this amendment was passed than they need to. I think if we can win if there's another vote."