ALRANZ: 16 reasons to change the abortion law

Written By: - Date published: 6:08 am, February 18th, 2018 - 23 comments
Categories: abortion, feminism, gender, health - Tags: , ,

Prior to the election in 2014 the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand published 16 reasons why NZ should change its abortion laws. See yesterday’s post for Justice Minister Andrew Little’s announcement to do just that.

ALRANZ’s outline of our current laws:

In New Zealand, abortion is a crime. That is why it is in the Crimes Act 1961.

Abortion is one of the safest and most common medical procedures in the developed world. Its regulation in New Zealand and other countries is far out of proportion to its risk.

The law makes an exception for abortions approved by two certifying consultants.

The Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 sets out the parameters of the abortion bureaucracy in New Zealand. It establishes the Abortion Supervisory Committee. That committee maintains a list of certifying consultants, the doctors who are capable of approving abortions (or not).

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion abortion regulations are more about controlling women’s fertility than about making health care safe. It becomes even more difficult if you read the Report of the Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion.

In it, you see men of the 1970s trying to cater for a system that reduces the number of women dying of sepsis in unsafe, illegal abortions, while still forcing most women to give birth in most cases whether they like it or not.

The Commission focused on the reason for the abortion. A woman being “severely sub-normal” in the eyes of the law was a good reason. A woman being raped was not a good enough reason, because the Commission assumed women would just lie to get abortions.

Some New Zealanders believe the law, and the way it has been applied, amount to abortion on request. They are sadly mistaken. Certifying consultants denied an abortion to 216 people in 2014, the last year for which we have data.

ALRANZ’s 16 Reasons to Change NZ’s Abortion Laws

  1. They are expensive. For the year 2012 the fees to certifying consultants alone amounted to around $5 million. This money could be better spent on preventing unplanned pregnancies.
  2. The grounds are unrealistic and unnecessary. They ignore the importance of socio-economic and personal factors in making a decision. It is hypocritical and demeaning to women that almost 99% are carried out on the grounds of mental health. There is no need to have specified grounds for abortion.
  3. The language used and the focus on “mentally abnormal”, “seriously handicapped” and “severely subnormal” in the Crimes Act is demeaning to disabled persons.
  4. They are punitive, punishing women for contraceptive “mistakes”. To err is human. Enforced pregnancy is not in the long term interests of society. Women want to give their children the best start in life.
  5. The procedures are unnecessarily complicated and erect barriers to good health care. Vulnerable and rural women are disadvantaged. The system of certifying consultants is not only expensive but unnecessary.
  6. Because of the complicated procedures delays in the system are inevitable and result in abortions being carried out later than is desirable for safety. The Abortion Supervisory Committee states that it is best practice for abortions to be carried out before 9 weeks. In 2012 only 35% of abortions were carried out before 9 weeks and only 14% before 8 weeks.
  7. The laws result in inequitable services. In part they are responsible for the geographical variation in abortion services throughout NZ.
  8. Because they do not conform to best medical practice the laws are not respected and are not strictly adhered to. For example, counselling, according to law, should come after the decision has been made by the certifying consultants. Most services provide counselling before certifying, some even insisting on it, although this is not what the law says. The referring doctor may accompany the woman to see the certifying consultant but in practice this never happens.
  9. There is a problem for abortions on the grounds of fetal abnormality. This is a ground up to 20 weeks but sometimes the diagnosis is not made until after 20 weeks and the abortion must then be done on the grounds of serious permanent injury to the mental health of the woman. The Abortion Supervisory Committee has pointed out this anomaly to Parliament more than once but no action has been taken. This situation is distressing for the woman and her family.
  10. They are outdated. There have been many changes in society since 1977 resulting in a change of public attitudes towards abortion and other reproductive health issues. There have also been advances in medical technology. The laws were written primarily for surgical abortions. In 2002 it was necessary for the ASC to seek a ruling from the High Court (under Section 28 of the CS&A Act) with respect to the procedures for carrying out early medication abortions.
  11. They are disempowering for women. ALRANZ firmly believes that a woman should decide whether or not to continue her pregnancy, not parliamentarians with a conscience vote and not state-funded doctors. With respect to informed consent they do not conform to The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights.
  12. Self-abortion is a crime subject to a penalty of up to $200. Prior to 1977 the penalty was up to seven years imprisonment. In the 21st century in practice no prosecutions are made.
  13. The sections on conscientious objection (Sect 46 CS&A Act and Sect 174 HPCA Act ) and the referral to a certifying consultant (Sect 32 (1) (2) (4) CS&A Act) were examined in a High Court judgment (2 December 2010) in a case brought against the Medical Council of New Zealand by a group of anti-abortion doctors. The laws favour the rights of the doctor. There must be a balance between the right of doctors to freedom of beliefs and the patient’s entitlement to appropriate care and treatment. The laws need to reflect current best practice.
  14. They ignore the human rights of women and are not in accordance with international treaties to which New Zealand is a signatory especially the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Sexual violation (rape) is not a ground for abortion but only a matter which can be taken into consideration. It is a matter of discrimination that the person who is pregnant is not entitled to make a decision on having an abortion.
  15. They are undemocratic. In a democracy there should be tolerance for different beliefs and anti-abortionists should not be allowed to impose their views on others, however sincerely these views are held.
  16. They are ineffective. If one of the intentions was to reduce the number of abortions, they have failed.

23 comments on “ALRANZ: 16 reasons to change the abortion law”

  1. Antoine 1

    Nice post, is it an Ad effort?

    • Ad 1.1

      If I did a post it would actually engage rather than simply quote one view without authorship, or any sign that a The Standard author has a view, or any commentary.

      I haven’t figured out which side to take yet.

      I’ll wait until the government proposing the legislation sets out its reasons for doing so, and chew it over.

  2. bwaghorn 2

    i support women having the choice (it would be better to not be born than born to someone who doesn’t want you) , but be in no doubt it is taking a life

    • but be in no doubt it is taking a life

      No it’s not. For it to be a life it would have to be able to survive outside of the womb.

      • weka 2.1.1

        It helps to have people who consider it taking a life to be also pro-choice.

      • Cinny 2.1.2

        +++++++++++++++++++ infinity Draco, the breath of life 🙂

        When one gives birth under water, NO ONE is allowed to touch baby, baby floats to the surface by themselves, and when lift out of the water, baby takes their first breath of life, igniting their soul.
        It goes against all of ones maternal instincts to let baby make their own time to the surface of the water.
        It’s freaking amazing, highly recommend the experience for those watching and birthing.

        Re abortion… I’m pro choice 100%, having been there done that it’s really important for women to have a choice and support regardless of their decision. As well the impregnators should have access to support and knowledge depending on the circumstances, it takes two and all that.

      • Incognito 2.1.3

        That’s a rather vague legal description of life. A few weeks later and the changes of surviving outside the womb increase to a point that the foetus is considered to be “life” or a living (human) being. Medical technology is continuously moving this goalpost to earlier times although that ‘probability of survival’ will always be poorly defined, partly because it cannot be established through large-scale experiment (!!) and partly because it will depend on many other factors besides the time spent in the womb. Even the developmental age (time) of the foetus is imprecise.

        This also sidesteps the idea that without intervention we would have a normal birth, under normal circumstances, and that we are thus dealing with potential life as in ‘almost certainly’.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Medical technology is continuously moving this goalpost to earlier times although that ‘probability of survival’ will always be poorly defined, partly because it cannot be established through large-scale experiment (!!) and partly because it will depend on many other factors besides the time spent in the womb.

          An incubator is still a womb.

          This also sidesteps the idea that without intervention we would have a normal birth, under normal circumstances, and that we are thus dealing with potential life as in ‘almost certainly’.

          It has potential as life but is not yet life.

          • Psycho Milt

            An incubator is still a womb.

            Yep. “Able to survive outside the womb” necessarily implies “able to survive outside mechanical womb replicas,” or it’s meaningless.

      • bwaghorn 2.1.4

        your wrong , but if it makes it easier for you to support killing all good

        • Psycho Milt

          I lost count of how many things I killed today – admittedly, the things were all flies, but they probably had more of a sense of what was going on than an early-stage foetus. And that’s not including, of course, the untold microbes my body killed without troubling my conscious mind over it.

        • greywarshark

          You work on a farm bwaghorn, and regularly the animals are sent away for killing. They should mean something to us. The body starts a baby and it knows less than the animals when it is aborted if early on. We shouldn’t be forcing women to have children they do not want.

          The next unreasonable line of thought is to blame a woman for having a baby and call her a slut. This type of thinking happens a lot, and the man usually, who says it never thinks at all about the ugly double-tongued, two-faced attitude that he is taking when talking generally about women. If he knows one particular one then he still probably is wrong and gets on a high horse despite knowing only the bare bones of what he’s talking about.

    • Incognito 2.2

      If “want’ were something set in stone and permanent you might have a very strong point.

      I’m thinking deeply about this, and about euthanasia, and my position appears to be slowly moving away from the single-person pro-choice stand that I used to take. Work in progress …

  3. Sabine 3

    there is only one view on this

    the view of the women, her family and her doctor.

    She does not want the child, she will have an abortion, be it a legal save one or an illegal unsave one at home with the aid of bleach, coathangers, baseball bats and stomps on the tummy.

    Everything else is just blathering by people that is meaning less.

    But hey, its not as if men would ever have to be pregnant, carry that pregnancy to term, birth the child, they will never suffer any of the myriad things that could go wrong in said pregnancy – might need some transfusion for hemorrhage or an emergency delivery, or a breach position, or birth a stillborn and and and, and then get shamed for having a child that she or her family can’t afford and besides why did she not just keep her legs shut, give a prayer to the virgin mary and tell her partner, husband and or rapist to not have intercourse today so that she might not be pregnant. Right?

    And to the religious type that believe that menstruation and childbirth is the bill for the original sin of ‘handing the apple to adam’ and is womens lot in life, a pox on your house.

    so essentially remove all the bullets points and leave it at that , save and legal available to anyone who needs and wants an abortion.

    • Incognito 3.1

      Well, the safe health practice & care has to come from somewhere, the legal framework and bureaucracy has to be put in place and managed, the overall support to ensure the wellbeing of all involved needs to be in place without undue obstacles (and prejudice). To me this seems to involve much more than “the view of the women, her family and her doctor.”

      • Antoine 3.1.1

        Quite. I mean, you want to get rid of some of the painful & archaic process we currently have, but that doesn’t mean it should be a complete free for all.


        • Incognito

          I wasn’t talking about the money side of things or cost-benefit analysis as such. I meant that there has to be a full & complete wrap-around service that is not only supported by but also, in a large (!) part, comes from society at large and particularly from local community, for example. This is one of the reasons why I think it isn’t and cannot be a decision or choice that is the woman’s one in absolute terms and that it is some kind of inalienable right of the woman and her sole ‘jurisdiction’. But as I said before, I’m working through these thoughts and clearly people have different views on the matter.

          • Sabine

            there has to be no ‘wrap around’ services at all.

            no more that you get when you get a hysterectomy, cancer treatment, teeth removal,

            a pregnancy is diagnosed, the women in question does not want to have the child, women goes to clinic and schedules an abortion, women arrives at the clinic, is provided the medical service called abortion, a women goes home. This would be the abortion for ‘i don’t want to have a child’ – no further explanation needed.

            or else you have a wanted pregnancy that goes awol and a d&c is needed and again an surgery appointment is scheduled, the women goes in, receives treatment and is released back home.

            Nothing more is needed then the women, her family, a doctor. Your input is not needed and of no importance to a women who needs an abortion and has to make that decision for what ever reason.

            What we don’t need is men and women to create a ‘legal frame work that sets limitations to that procedure ‘ something that will increase costs for the provider and the user of the service, a wrap around service aka – counseling, looking at ultrasound pictures (at a cost to the pregnant women), listening to the ‘heartbeat of a three week old fetus’ and other assorted bullshit that is to effectively shame a women into carrying a pregnancy to term.

            See the US and its use of TRAP laws

            We already have laws that have regulated the medical aspect of an abortion, now we only need to remove the requirement of seeing and paying for multiple doctors, of it being a criminal act and the ‘protesters’ that hang out in front of clinics to again shame women for doing what is best for them.

    • greywarshark 3.2

      A baby in the womb is slowly emerging from a dot. Once it is born the baby needs interaction with its parent and caregiver, it is not a toy, and the mother is not a toy maker. If she cannot cope with having the baby she should be able to have an abortion, preferably when the child is in the early stages. The woman should be able to withdraw from that happening of nature.

      We are over-populated in the world, and we don’t treat each other with enough care. People are ordered around for the convenience of the rulers of society with rigid rules that don’t show care to the adult person, and ultimately don’t help the baby. The child will be dependent in so many ways even after it is born, and merely saying the mother should have it and then must look after it, or adopt it out is not helpful for the happiness and stability of the child or the mother.

      The actions of the state when it takes care of children deemed to need to be taken from the parents, often ignores what the child’s needs are, or the child will be ‘placed’ rather like being pigeon-holed, with people who are willing rather than able. Whether it is the state or church or other institutions, there is a big likelihood that the care it provides will be little better than provided by unsatisfactory parents. Why not allow a parent if wished, to have an abortion, after full counselling which will give the woman time to talk about her sadness? Most will be sorry that they couldn’t manage to keep the child.

  4. The Fairy Godmother 4

    I think it is high time the laws were amended. A fetus is part of the mother’s body and all decisions should be up to her. A fetus is a life as are many other parts of our earth including sperm and flowers To put the fetus on the same level and deserving the same protection as the mother is an insult. It is not even a logical Christian perspective despite what the fundamentalists might say. The Bible states a baby has a soul when it draws breath, also that if a woman is injured causing her to miscarry the person who caused the injury must pay compensation as opposed to the rule of a life for a life if the woman was killed.

  5. D'Esterre 5

    bwaghorn: ” be in no doubt it is taking a life’

    This is also true of contraceptives which have the potential to be abortifacient; and of the surgery required for ectopic pregnancy. And, of course, all spontaneous abortions, which – when we know about them – we refer to as “miscarriages”. Then there are all those zygotes which fail to implant. All of these are potential lives lost. What would you do about them?

    Talk of taking a life is irrelevant. Abortion is a health matter; it’s solely the business of the pregnant woman. Leave it to her and keep your opinions to yourself.

  6. I like your post.

    It’s kind of astonishing how far the conversation around abortion has come in the past year. Before then, a sizeable proportion of Kiwis believed New Zealand had legal abortion on request already. Sadly, no.

    Whatever legal structure Parliament puts in place needs to be grounded on trusting women to decide what is best for themselves and their families. There is no entity in existence with a greater right to decide or a clearer perspective on what is right for her. Likewise, there is no entity in existence that has the right to coerce a pregnant person to carry the pregnancy and give birth against their will.

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