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Retention of Clause 37 unchanged a victory

Retention of Clause 37 unchanged a victory for commonsense

The overwhelming vote by Parliament last night to retain Clause 37 of the Care of Children Bill without amendment was a victory for commonsense, says Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope.

Mr Benson-Pope says the vote, 75 to 45, against any change to the current law showed Parliament had understood that amendments would have been potentially catastrophic for vulnerable young women.

"Proposals to amend this law that has worked well for the last 27 years, and introduce mandatory notification, were like attempts to thread a needle with boxing gloves on," said Mr Benson-Pope.

"What the Royal Commission found in 1977, and health professionals working at the frontline today told us, was that to make parental notification mandatory could mean a young woman being forced to have an abortion or continue a pregnancy against her wishes. Parliament rightly decided that was an unacceptable outcome.

"Parents with a caring, loving relationship with their children, can certainly expect their children to tell them and in fact evidence shows the overwhelming number of young women who seek an abortion do tell their parents or other trusted adults."

Mr Benson-Pope says those who argued that the law might be protecting sexual predators were wrong, because health professionals who become aware of incest, rape or other crimes have the power to act and pass this information on to the appropriate law enforcement or welfare agencies.

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Mr Benson-Pope thanked the health and children's organisations that helped people work through these complex issues in a calm and considered way. They included the New Zealand Medical Association, the Royal New Zealand College of GPs, the Family Planning Association, Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, and UNICEF – who all wrote to MPs expressing their concern at the prospect of any law change.

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