Media Release 14 February 2020
The Select Committee report considering the bill resulting from Jacinda Ardern’s policy to liberalise abortion laws has come back with their report, and not surprisingly – because of the make-up of the committee and the muzzling of many people who wanted to make oral submissions – the majority have endorsed the radical and extreme bill.
“The focus of this proposed abortion policy shift is entirely on women having a right to an abortion, but completely ignores both the status of the unborn child, and the wellbeing of the mother,” says Gina Sunderland, spokesperson for Family First NZ.
“Under the current law, an unborn child is at least afforded some recognition and minimal legal protection. In contrast, these proposals will give the unborn child the same status as an appendix, tonsils or gall bladder – simply tissue removed as part of a ‘health procedure’.”
The proposed law would also make late-term abortions considerably more accessible, rather than for exceptional circumstances as currently required under the Crimes Act. The Bill has been drafted in such a way that an abortion can legally be obtained up until the point that a child has been fully born. A baby could be aborted after 20-weeks as long as the health practitioner who intends to perform the abortion considered that the abortion was ‘appropriate in the circumstances’.
Justice Minister Andrew Little has admitted that late-term abortions up to birth can happen under proposed abortion law. Currently the Crimes Act allows for an abortion after 20 weeks gestation only if it is necessary to save the life of the woman or prevent serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health. Official Information Act statistics show that 800 late term abortions have been performed over the last 10 years where there is no danger to the physical health or life of the mother.
The bill will also remove the current 20-week gestational time limit for disability. In 2017, the organisation Saving Down’s highlighted their concerns around Jacinda Ardern’s pledge to change abortion laws, saying that this would introduce abortion through to birth for babies with disabilities. In response, Jacinda Ardern made a commitment to not increase the time limit for disability-selective abortion. In the UK, there are increasing numbers of late term abortions for conditions such as such as cleft lip and palate or club foot.
“The real question we should be debating is at what point does the unborn child become a human being deserving of the same human rights and protections that we all receive and enjoy,” says Mrs Sunderland.
“It is also tragic – and ironic – that this report has been delivered on Valentine’s Day. Unborn children will not be feeling the love.”
SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROBLEMS WITH THE BILL:
* more than 90% of submissions opposed the bill
* almost 95% of submitters who wanted to speak to the committee were denied
* to remove legislation about abortion from the criminal code and insert it to the health code is to equate a procedure to remove an unborn baby with a procedure to remove an appendix, kidney stones, gall bladder or tonsils – simply ’tissue’ removed as part of a ‘health procedure’. This denies the humanity of the baby and again, creates inconsistency with other legislation and public health messaging which clearly recognises the rights of the unborn child
* for abortions after 20 weeks, the terms “physical health” “mental health” and “wellbeing” are not defined by the Bill. The “gestational age” to be considered is not defined. On a natural reading these terms are broad and unrestrictive. Given the policy intent to make abortion more accessible, it is difficult to see many instances in which an abortion would reasonably be refused. Therefore….
* late term abortions will increase. Currently the Crimes Act allows for an abortion after 20 weeks gestation only in exceptional circumstances. Statistics NZ data shows that 800 late term abortions have been performed over the last 10 years where there was no danger to the physical health or life of the mother – 91% of all late term abortions. The proposed bill means that late term abortions will be available to women if the abortion provider “reasonably believes the abortion is appropriate in all the circumstances,” having regard to the woman’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. This is a very broad subjective test
* the Bill has been drafted in such a way that an abortion can legally be obtained up until the point that a child has been fully born
* no provisions are proposed to protect women and young girls from being coerced into an abortion as a result of abuse or coercion from a boyfriend or family member
* no provisions are proposed for ensuring women have the mental-health support they need before and after abortion, or that women are made fully aware of the risks of abortion, and of all of their options
* there’s no proposal to prevent schools from taking young women for an abortion without parental knowledge. In fact, the Bill removes all safeguards prior to 20 weeks, including for a pregnant child who could access an abortion on demand
* there’s no proposal to prevent sex-selective abortion, except for a ‘tut-tut-tut we don’t like it’ provision
* the Bill also waters down the freedom of conscience rights for health practitioners, who would be required to provide information to women about abortion service providers. The effect of the ability for an employer to refuse to hire someone, or to terminate their employment, on the grounds of their conscientious objection is concerning
* The bill would also remove the current 20-week gestational time limit for disability.
* there is no requirement in the Bill that the Qualified Health Practitioner who provides abortion services, at any point in a woman’s pregnancy, is a doctor. In fact, the Bill specifically uses the term
“Health Practitioner” rather than “Medical Practitioner” thereby broadening the category of person empowered to certify and carry out abortions beyond just doctors
* polling has found that only 4% of New Zealanders want more liberal time limits for abortion
* polling last year found strong support for the unborn child having human rights and being legally protected once a heartbeat is detected – which can be between 6–12 weeks – and only a small minority thinking that life doesn’t begin until the child is born