Catholic Bishops express concern at proposed abortion legislation changes

A joint submission by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) to the Law Commission last Friday argues that the State has an essential responsibility to protect and care for all human life, born and unborn, which it would abdicate by making abortion solely a matter between a woman and her doctor.   

Justice Minister, Hon Andrew Little had, in previous comments, indicated that a full review of the abortion laws would take place. However, the brief given to the Law Commission falls far short of this. The Minister has, instead, indicated the Government wants abortion to be treated as “a health issue”, rather than a criminal one. As a result, the Law Commission has been tasked with providing an alternative legal framework to facilitate what would effectively amount to a significant policy change. 

The NZCBC and its centre of bioethics, The Nathaniel Centre, are concerned that such a move would limit or remove the rights of the unborn child that the current law acknowledges. They say that abortion is both a health and a justice issue and it should continue to be treated by the law as such.  

NZCBC President, Bishop Patrick Dunn, said that “the changes we would advocate for are those which will ensure continued consideration of the rights of the unborn child and promote the well-being of women, including better processes to ensure adequate informed consent, especially independent counselling.”

The submission also calls for a parallel review of the social support structures, familial, financial, emotional and social, that our society offers to women who are pregnant. “A decision for an abortion can only be described as a truly ‘free’ choice’ if the woman knows there is tangible support that enables her to choose to keep the child,” said Bishop Dunn.

Submissions closed Friday, with the Law Commission providing advice to the Minister on the proposed changes in October.  The NZCBC full submission can be found at

Ko te Huinga Pīhopa o te Hāhi Katorika o Aotearoa (NZCBC) te kāhui whakahaere o ngā mahi whakapono a-motu me ngā rōpū minita o te Hāhi Katorika. Otirā ngā rōpū mātauranga, tika me te pono, kaitohutohu Māori, whakapaoho whakawhiti whakaaro me te toro atu ki te iwi nui tonu, ritenga o te Hāhi, whakawhanaungatanga o ngā Hāhi, matatika koiora, whakawhanaungatanga o ngā whakapono, mahi minita ki ngā whareherehere me ngā hohipera, oti atu.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC) is the assembly of the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand coordinating national activities and ministries of the Catholic Church.  These include education, social justice, Māori advisory, communications and engagement with the public, liturgy, ecumenism, bioethics, interfaith relations, pastoral work in prisons and hospitals, and more.  Full submission here