I was talking to an old friend last night. She’s been a Labour voter/supporter/activist nearly all her adult life. She lives in Rotorua. She said she might have to vote Green next year because she doesn’t think she’ll be able to support Steve Chadwick and her proposed new law to legalise abortion on request for women up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy.
Both a recent Herald article and Chris Trotter’s blog on Steve Chadwick’s bill put the number of abortions in New Zealand in 2007 at18,382. So I want to know who exactly does Steve Chadwick think is missing out?
Now that I’ve waded into the murky territory of abortion and being a real life woman, I feel I am entitled to a view on the 24 weeks aspect of the bill, as well as the politics behind it. A fetus at 24 weeks is one week older than what the medical world generally deems “viable”, i.e. capable of sustaining life outside the womb.
It’s my understanding that abortions in NZ are most often performed on women up to 12 week’s pregnant.
From what I’ve seen having an abortion is awful and most women think long and hard before deciding to go ahead with one. For many, it’s one of the worst days of their lives.
But we live with it, or let me put this in the personal – I live with it – because there is no chance a 12 week old fetus could survive outside the uterus. But a 24 week fetus could. Their eyes are starting to open, they can hear and respond to sounds – including their mothers’ voice. Apparently their nerve endings aren’t developed enough to feel pain before 24 weeks and yet they could survive an very early birth.
So my problem with Steve Chadwick’s proposal is twofold:
1) I think this is stupid, stupid politics; starting a debate about which there is no win nor, as far as I can tell from conversations I’ve had with women in the past decade a widespread grassroots movement to liberalise our abortion policy. I’m betting that Labour’s focus groups didn’t say hey! here’s our chance to get Labour’s agenda in the news – let’s get the country talking about abortion!.
2) I’m sorry but an abortion at 24 weeks (in the US they’re called Partial Birth Abortions for literal rather than emotional reasons) feels wrong.