Analysis: Why there is no way Christopher Luxon can get away with any tweaking of legislation or access to abortion now

ANALYSIS: National leader Christopher Luxon spending five days in damage control cleaning up his MP Simon O'Connor's mess has forced him to make explicit promises on abortion he will be held accountable to.

Should he be elected to lead New Zealand, there will be no room for any restriction of access to abortions because of the emphatic black-and-white commitments he's had to make this week.

And that should give nervous New Zealanders some comfort.

On Saturday, many New Zealanders woke up to the news Roe v Wade had been torn down - the largest dismantling of human rights in modern US history - and were horrified.

National MP Simon O'Connor woke up joyous and took to Facebook to celebrate.

"Today is a good day", he typed, and selected pink love-heart balloons - later saying he did so because he thought they were "colourful".

Throughout the day, every other party condemned the US Supreme Court decision but National's leadership were silent.

In the vacuum of a response, people took O'Connor's jubilation as the National Party's position.

O'Connor's post had blown up and among its likers was his colleague Simeon Brown. Luxon called O'Connor asking him to take the post down but the damage had been done.

It then wasn't until National was contacted by journalists that Luxon responded to the news. Clearly, there was no communications plan ready to go despite the draft decision being released months ago and it plainly being an awkward topic for Luxon who is an anti-abortionist hoping to lead a mostly pro-choice country.

Luxon's previously deflected when asked about the Roe v Wade draft decision, saying it was an issue for America. The leak in May was a draft, it was a matter of time before the ruling.

And yet Luxon's first words on the matter were not of empathy for the women of America who'd lost 50 years of settled fundamental reproductive rights or for the nervous women in New Zealand whose rights are barely two years old. Instead, Luxon again said it was "an issue for the American people who have a different set of constitutional arrangements than New Zealand".

"It is not a New Zealand issue," Luxon said.

Luxon's second statement - a tweet - repeated Roe v Wade was an issue "for the American people".

In both statements - as he had done before - Luxon promised not to touch New Zealand's abortion laws but health experts and abortion campaigners questioned whether politicians could really be trusted with what they say.

Finally, his third go at a statement acknowledged how distressing the news was.

It was too late, the story was ahead of him and he had to play catch up. The messaging bungle coupled with O'Connor's jubilation threw the door open for Labour to get in their attacks.

Grant Robertson spun through that open door first thing Monday in his morning media rounds, using the opportunity to remind New Zealanders Luxon believes abortion is tantamount to murder.

Robertson himself politicised the distress of so many to question whether National could be trusted on abortion issues.

In almost every interview since, Luxon's been asked about his views leading to him swearing unequivocally National would not relitigate or revisit New Zealand's abortion laws. Every media outlet in the country have him on record committing to this.

Of course, there are other ways to restrict abortions - like cutting funding or clinics. Newshub asked Luxon whether he could guarantee he wouldn't limit access to abortion in any way.

"Absolutely," he said.

That is an emphatic promise.

The public - and the influential liberal and pro-choice members of his own caucus - will hold him to that. He will not get away with any tweaking of legislation or access.

Luxon has also had to guarantee there would be no challenges from National MPs' members' bills which have to get sign-off from caucus before being put in the ballot. They wouldn't get past him, he said.

"It won't be happening under my government."

That's essentially a gag order in everything but name but is also a promise anti-abortionists won't get to make changes.

National leader Christopher Luxon.
National leader Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: Getty Images.

This issue won't go away for Luxon. It's one of his weaknesses - he's clearly very uncomfortable talking about abortions and as the election draws nearer Labour will likely remind New Zealand when it can of the National leader's anti-abortion stance.

Luxon now - in an attempt to put abortion behind him - is calling the healthcare issue which kills women with dangerous pregnancies in states where abortion is now a crime a "distraction".

That will likely only drag it out, Robertson pouncing at the chance on Wednesday to have another go in the House during general debate: "He's also given a list today of the issues that concern women. So, stand down ladies, Christopher Luxon's got it covered for you. He knows the issues are for woman; he doesn't need to hear from anybody else."

For O'Connor this will continue too. Many in his electorate are fuming. They want him out and will make all the noise they can to achieve that.

But Luxon's five days - and counting - of damage control means that after previously dodging questions on abortion, he's been forced to be so explicit it would be a broken promise to restrict abortions in any way.

The only thing left to do is stake his resignation on it.

Amelia Wade is a senior political reporter for Newshub.