Concern abortion in New Zealand could be undermined by US Supreme Court ruling

It was just two years ago that abortion was removed from the Crimes Act in New Zealand.

And what's happened in the United States has ignited fears it could legitimise turning the clock back here too.

Dame Margaret Sparrow vividly remembers the day, almost 50 years ago, when the Roe v Wade news came through.

"I was at a student health conference in Canberra at the time," Dame Margaret said.

"The conference just erupted in applause, we thought it was such a groundbreaking decision.

"We were all excited and thought it was a great improvement and of course we had great difficulty at that time with our own law in New Zealand so it was a real breakthrough."

The legendary reproductive rights campaigner and author is appalled by the latest ruling in the US and concerned it will see the return of do-it-yourself abortions and backstreet abortionists.

"I feel it's a real backwards step for women, no doubt."

Leaders around the world have condemned the decision. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it "horrific", French President Emmanuel Macron said abortion is a "fundamental right", and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it "a big step backwards".

Jacinda Ardern called it "incredibly upsetting", saying: "People are absolutely entitled to have deeply held convictions on this issue. But those personal beliefs should never rob another from making their own decisions."

National leader Christopher Luxon has previously said that he personally is against abortion but a statement given to Newshub said: "Christopher Luxon's position is that for New Zealand the issue of abortion rights was settled in the last Parliament and it won’t be changing under a National Government he leads."

But it's raised concerns. Otago University Professor Joe Boden is the director of the Christchurch Health and Development Study.

"If you've got people like Christopher Luxon who's leading the party, who's an evangelical Christian, and he's telling you that he won't make any moves to change the law, I wouldn't actually believe that, I wouldn't put any stock in it."

He fears women in the US will die as a result of the decision.

"Taking the control over reproduction away from women is absolutely the worst kind of thing that you can do, from a health standpoint and from a moral standpoint."

Terry Bellamak, who is on the executive committee of ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa, has been campaigning for abortion rights in New Zealand for 10 years. She said politicians must be kept honest.

"It would be smart for people in New Zealand and all over the world to pay less attention to what their politicians are saying and pay all the attention to what their politicians are doing," said Bellamak.

Dame Margaret said a woman's right to choose is fundamental.

"I hope that our new laws here will not suffer the same fate."

So that abortion in New Zealand remains a health issue, not a criminal one.