Media Release 21 November 2018
The Law Commission has made a stunning admission today to the Justice Select Committee that the Minister of Justice Andrew Little didn’t want a full report on abortion laws, was only interested in a ministerial briefing paper for shifting the law in a liberal direction, and that the public were not fully consulted as to their views.
During the hearing today, the issue was raised to the President Sir Douglas White as to why there were 17 public meetings held around the country on property relationships, but that the same level of public engagement was not offered – and therefore the consideration of the issue has not been as wide and broad – when considering the abortion issue.
In response, Sir Douglas admitted that “it was made very plain to us that we were not required – indeed, not asked to look at the wider policy issues” around the abortion law. The Law Commission went on to admit that the Commission went out and engaged with the public on “a full-scale” review on property relationships, but not on abortion because of the direction of the Minister.
“The intentional lack of consultation with the public on their views of the abortion laws should concern all New Zealanders. A Law Commission member said in a recent media interview that the reviews that the Law Commission do best are where they consider them at length. Yet the consideration of abortion laws was referred by the Minister at the end of February and was due back “within eight months”,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director.
“In effect, what the government gave the Law Commission was not a request for a review of the law, but rather a specific direction on how to treat this hugely controversial social issue in law. While the Law Commission had been asked to consult with the general public – albeit in a very limited time frame – there was no requirement on the Law Commission to have to take into account the wide range of issues raised. There was certainly no allowance for the possibility that the Law Commission may actually believe that the current law is appropriate in the circumstances.”
“It also meant that the conclusion was reached before consideration have even taken place. This has the potential to create legal and ethical problems and ambiguities in the law. It seems fairly obvious that the Law Commission is being used as a smoke-screen for an agenda being rushed through by a government. The Law Commission deserves more respect.”
(The Review of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 has now been deferred another six months to make way for the abortion law review. In 2016, the Commission found nearly half the children born in New Zealand were to parents neither married nor in a civil union, and that a third of all marriages are remarriages. Therefore, these laws affect hundreds of thousands of families and people.)