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Hundreds march to Parliament to call for deciminalisation of abortion

About 300 protesters marched to Parliament this afternoon calling on MPs to vote in favour of decriminalising abortion.

A recent report by the Law Commission to the government recommended removing it from the Crimes Act.

There are three alternative approaches on the table for MPs to consider - one is that the decision is for a pregnant person and their doctor to decide, another is that a mental health assessment is carried out for all abortions, and the third would only require a woman's mental health being examined after 22 weeks of pregnancy.

A spokesperson for the group which organised the march Organise Aotearoa's Kate McIntyre said the new recommendations were good but the ideal solution would give more power to the pregnant person.

"We could have it out of the Crimes Act and still have a really restrictive system and so the ideal model would be a choice-based model that leaves the decision in the hands of the mother.

"What we're explicitly arguing for is a choice-based model as opposed to some of the other models."

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond agreed.

"We're very much supportive of [option a] which is giving women bodily autonomy and going to speak to their health practitioner.

"We're not so supportive at all of option b which still has women going into a level of intervention from a health professional and option c which is a bit of option a with an added extra for a late-term abortions, we're not so happy with that either."

Ms Edmond said it was important to raise awareness that abortion was still technically classified as a crime in New Zealand.

"It's very much a human right for women to access this service without having to go through a complex process under a crimes act.

"It is broken, it's old, it's out of date, and it really does need to change."

Dame Margaret Sparrow, Wellington doctor and long time advocate for abortion, said it was high time the law changed, but she was optimistic that so many people were out protesting today.

"Forty-one years is too long to have been putting up with such a bad law.

"It's good to see so many people coming out, and so many young people and so many men as well supporting choice... so very heartening to feel that the baton's really being passed on.

"I still remember when it was totally illegal and women could go to jail for seven years theoretically. I remember having to send lots and lots of women to Australia, going out of your own country to get essential healthcare. It's not right."
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