MP 'appalled' by anti-abortion threats
A senior National Party MP says he's appalled by threats to health professionals by Southland anti-abortion activists.
Paul Hutchison, a former gynaecologist who chairs Parliament's health select committee, says it would be "an ominous precedent" if the situation escalated into physical attacks as has happened in other countries.
An abortion clinic opened in Invercargill last month so women don't have to travel to Christchurch or Dunedin for terminations.
Anti-abortion group Southlanders for Life is reported to be trying to find out the names of the medical staff at the clinic so they can "name and shame" them.
Activists have picketed the clinic and say they're going to stage weekly demonstrations.
Dr Hutchison, a former member of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, says the health professionals are carrying out their lawful duties.
"I am appalled at the threats made... it is totally unacceptable," he said on Friday.
"In my view the focus of the debate should be about how we can prevent unwanted pregnancies, and that debate needs to be rational and calm."
Dr Hutchison says the maternal mortality rate can be high in countries where abortion is suppressed, while in New Zealand there have been no deaths since it became legal.
"Although as a professional I was conservative on this issue, I respect the law," he said.