New Zealand leader discusses abortion, marijuana, monarchy

NICK PERRY
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New Zealand Ardern Interview

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during an interview in Wellington, New Zealand, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019. Ardern said she’ll do all she can to stop a man accused of killing 51 Muslim worshippers from spreading his message of hate at his trial. She also hopes artificial intelligence will one day stop such attacks from being broadcast online. (AP Photo/Sam James)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — During an interview with The Associated Press, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern discussed a range of social issues, including three the nation will make decisions on next year: euthanasia, marijuana use and abortion. But one thing she remained quiet about was her marriage plans.

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EUTHANASIA: In a referendum next year, New Zealanders will vote on whether to legalize euthanasia.

The measure applies only to people who are terminally ill and likely to die within six months. To be eligible, a person must be in irreversible physical decline and experience "unbearable suffering" that cannot be relieved in any other way they find tolerable.

Ardern said she’d be voting in favor of the measure because she didn’t want to stand in the way of other people’s choices.

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MARIJUANA: A second referendum measure will determine whether marijuana will be legalized for recreational use. The wording hasn’t been finalized yet, but a draft would limit sales to those aged over 20, ban advertising and smoking in public places. It would allow people to grow up to four marijuana plants at home.

Ardern declined to say how she’d vote, saying her job was to facilitate a discussion on what option would best reduce harm.

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ABORTION: Lawmakers are considering changes to abortion laws that would treat the procedure as a health issue rather than a crime.

While abortions have been available in New Zealand for decades, the procedure is still regulated under the Crimes Act, which many say presents unnecessary obstacles for women seeking abortions.

Ardern said she thought the country was ready for the planned changes, and lawmakers had shown overwhelming support during a preliminary vote.

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WOMEN’S ISSUES: Ardern is seen by many women around the world as a role model. She said women still face many issues, depending on where they live.

“One of the greatest challenges in some parts of the world is accessing basic maternal health or even basic education,” Ardern said. “For other parts of the world like ours, it will be issues like being free from violence, intimate partner violence, and the gender pay gap.”

What is shared, she said, is the knowledge there are issues specific to women that need to be addressed and a sense of solidarity.

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MONARCHY: Ardern said she believed that New Zealand would eventually ditch its constitutional allegiance to the British monarchy and become a republic. She just didn’t know when.

“I don’t think people have any urgency around that right now,” she said. “I don’t think it’s top of people’s minds.”

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MARRIAGE: Ardern announced in May that longtime partner Clarke Gayford had proposed to her and she’d accepted.

The couple have a 17-month-old daughter, Neve. Ardern became just the second elected world leader in modern history to give birth while holding office in 2018.

On Thursday Ardern laughed and said simply: ‘’No date yet.’’