Roe v Wade delivers hornet’s nest

Published date27 June 2022
Publication titleWhanganui Chronicle
One of National’s most unashamedly conservative MPs, Simon O’Connor, put out a post on social media saying simply “today is a good day”. By Saturday night, the post had been pulled down — at the request of Luxon

O’Connor was not responding to requests for comment, but he will not necessarily be comfortable about that instruction and nor will National’s other conservatives.

O’Connor is the vanguard of National’s conservative MPs, the one who points out, regardless of the risk of backlash, that freedom of opinion cuts both ways. Having that opinion curtailed will not sit easily with O’Connor. It could be taken as a gag, although one of the concerns of the leadership was the way O’Connor aired his view. It was seen as too celebratory, with no acknowledgement of those affected, or that others might feel differently. It paid no heed to how it would play politically.

Luxon was trying to neutralise the issue. The last thing he wants is National to get embroiled in the abortion debate while trying to build an election campaign fought on the cost of living. His media slots this week will now be on this issue, not his upcoming trip to Europe.

It was an unhelpful and unnecessary distraction from his primary goal: winning an election.

In that regard, the bigger risk to Luxon’s chances are not O’Connor’s views — but his own. It is also obvious he knows that.

He has not changed his own position on abortion — nor should he. It would be cynical and nobody would believe it.

What he has done is acknowledge others feel differently and stated if he was PM he would not change the current abortion laws and will continue to fund abortion health services “to give women certainty”.

Luxon has even gone so far as to say he “empathises” with women who have found the US decision distressing. He is clearly aware of the risk his own views could imperil support from a significant chunk of the population.

Much has been made about whether Luxon’s response has been adequate, in contrast with PM Jacinda Ardern’s quick and strong criticism of the decision in the US.

She did not seek...

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