Roe v Wade: Nanaia Mahuta explains why she called US Supreme Court decision 'draconian' despite voting against abortion reform

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta, who voted against abortion reform in 2020, says her tweet about the "draconian" overturning of Roe v Wade in the United States represented the Government's view.

The Labour MP on Saturday morning tweeted her alarm at the US Supreme Court ruling that there is no constitutional right to abortions. The decision puts the power over access to abortions in the hands of individual states, many of which have quickly moved to curtail it. 

"The US Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v Wade Is draconian and does not support the right of women to choice. How can this happen?" Mahuta wrote.

But that tweet quickly came under fire, with many accusing Mahuta of hypocrisy given she voted in 2020 against the second and third reading of the Abortion Legislation Bill, which took abortion out of the Crimes Act. It was a conscience vote, and Mahuta was one of nine Labour MPs opposed on third reading.

The MP, who has just arrived back in the country after representing New Zealand at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Rwanda, said on Wednesday that she tweeted in her ministerial capacity.

"My tweet represents the view of the Government. When those measures were debated in 2020, I exercised my conscience and I accept the democratic outcome of that vote," Mahuta said. "You will not see me campaigning to reverse the outcome of that particular vote."

She said her perspective was "based on a personal choice".

"Anyone that knows me knows I've had several miscarriages and I made a decision around my personal conscience. I am happy with that. I accept the democratic outcome of that vote."

Asked what her reaction had been to the landmark US Supreme Court ruling, Mahuta reiterated comments made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern - that it was "deeply disturbing" that the right could be overturned after nearly 50 years and it could have wider implications.

Acting Prime Minister Grant Robertson at a press conference on Monday said it was up to individual MPs to explain their decisions on conscience votes. 

"[Mahuta] has dealt with this issue in accordance with her conscience, and no doubt she has reasons for the view she's articulated," he said. 

"I'm standing up here today on behalf of the Prime Minister to say that the Labour Party continues to support women in New Zealand to be able to access abortion services and to have reproductive rights. 

"We passed the legislation. It was a Government bill, and I stand by what we are doing here. Everybody in New Zealand knows what Jacinda Ardern's position is on this issue and what the Labour Party's position is."

The US court decision also sparked political scrapping here in New Zealand. 

National MP Simon O'Connor, well-known to be the socially conservative side of the party, posted on social media that it was a "good day" when Roe v Wade was overturned. He later took down the post, acknowledging it was causing distress and being interpreted as National's position.

The party's leader, Christopher Luxon, was forced to clarify National's position after coming under attack by Robertson. Luxon said while he is "pro-life", any Government he leads wouldn't change the legislation or funding for the procedure.

The current National leader wasn't in Parliament when the abortion reform occurred, but he has previously said abortion is tantamount to murder

But earlier this year, Luxon voted in favour of creating so-called safe spaces around abortion clinics. Mahuta also supported that legislation.