Prime Minister Acknowledges Most Kiwis Support Abortion Access

Prime Minister Bill English acknowledged that most New Zealanders support the right to access abortion at a Family First event on Friday.

“Most people have a different view than I do about abortion. That’s not just reflected in the law, but sort of the practice of it,” said English.

ALRANZ National President Terry Bellamak welcomed the Prime Minister’s acceptance that New Zealanders do not agree with his view on abortion.

“Mr English is correct that most New Zealanders support the right of pregnant people to access abortion without let or hindrance. The results of the poll ALRANZ took earlier in the year showed as much.

“But Mr English’s insistence on maintaining the status quo, an abortion bureaucracy that wastes time and money while legally preventing doctors from providing the highest standard of care for New Zealanders, is difficult to comprehend.

“The current system discriminates against people who seek abortion by making them get the approval of two certifying consultants in order to access health care. No one seeking any other health care procedure is required to do this.

“How does Mr English justify ruling out law reform when most New Zealanders want a system that works well for everyone, without wasting patients’ time and taxpayers’ money?”

Under our abortion laws, two certifying consultants must approve every abortion under a narrow set of grounds set out in the Crimes Act. Those grounds do not include rape, nor the most common reasons cited overseas: contraception failure and the inability to support a child.

Certifying Consultant Comes Out in Support of Abortion Rights

A certifying consultant, Dr Helen Paterson, has told the Abortion Supervisory Committee she now supports abortion rights, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand says.

Dr Paterson’s disclosure challenges s 30(5) of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, which directs the Abortion Supervisory Committee not to appoint certifying consultants who believe abortion should be a matter between a patient and their doctor.

ALRANZ National President Terry Bellamak says Dr Paterson is now a member of ALRANZ.

“The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 promises Kiwis freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

“That a government body such as the Abortion Supervisory Committee is directed by law to refuse appointment as a certifying consultant on the basis of a person’s opinion is outrageous.

“ALRANZ salutes Dr Paterson for her courage in coming forward and speaking the truth to the Abortion Supervisory Committee.

“We support her efforts, and will continue to support her in future.”

Under our abortion laws, two certifying consultants must approve every abortion under a narrow set of grounds set out in the Crimes Act. Those grounds do not include rape, nor the most common reasons cited overseas: contraception failure and the inability to support a child.

Abortion Rate Decreases, and We Still Need Law Reform

The continued fall in the number of abortions in New Zealand does not change the need for law reform, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand says.

Statistics New Zealand reports 12,823 induced abortions were performed in 2016, compared with 13,155 in 2015.

This represents a decrease in the abortion rate per 1000 women aged between 15 and 44 years, from 14.2 in 2015 to 13.5 in 2016.

“The abortion rate in New Zealand continues to fall, particularly for younger women,” ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak says.

“But abortion is still regulated as a crime, instead of being treated like all other forms of health care.

“A majority of New Zealanders support access to legal abortion in all circumstances. Our laws must be reformed to reflect that reality.

“In the run-up to September’s General Election, ALRANZ calls on all political parties to include abortion law reform in their policy platforms.”

ALRANZ would like to see abortion decriminalised and treated as a health matter between a woman and her doctor. ALRANZ believes the government should not be in the position of forcing people to continue unwanted pregnancies.

“Abortion is a health issue, not a crime. New Zealand’s archaic laws reflect a time when women were considered unfit to make decisions for themselves. Those days are gone,” Ms Bellamak says.

“The current laws require women to pretend mental illness in order to get the care they need. These laws are absurd.”

 

Facts:

12,823 abortions were performed in New Zealand, 332 (3 percent) fewer than in 2015 (13,155).

The general abortion rate was 13.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, down from 14.2 per 1,000 in 2015.

Women aged 20–24 years had the highest abortion rate (21 abortions per 1,000 women aged 20–24 years), down from a high of 41 in 2003.

Most abortions (64 percent) were a woman’s first abortion.

57 percent of abortions were performed before the 10th week of the pregnancy.

18 percent of known pregnancies (live births, stillbirths, and abortions) ended in an abortion.

TRAPPED coming to Auckland!

TRAPPED coming to Auckland!

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa is proud to present the award-winning documentary TRAPPED by Dawn Porter. Come join us for the film, and stay for the panel discussion afterwards! TRAPPED tells the story of the abortion providers who fight to make reproductive rights accessible in the face of dodgy, punitive state laws. TRAPPED won the ‘Best Documentary’ category at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015.
 
Date/time: Wednesday, 5 July 2017, 18:30 – 21:00
Place: Stone Lecture Theatre, level 3, 9 Eden Crescent at University of Auckland School of Law
Cost: $20 waged, $10 unwaged
 
The film starts at 19:00, but come early for nibbles and conversation from 18:30.
 
Please email us at info@alranz.org, and let us know how many tickets you would like. We will reply with payment details.
Abortion, Godde talk and spiritual development

Abortion, Godde talk and spiritual development

Many thanks to Sanda Ramage for allowing us to cross-post from her blog.

by Sande Ramage

Pregnant, yet deep within I knew I couldn’t give this baby life. The decision was made to abort and back then, over 30 years ago, I was unaware of how this experience would influence my spiritual development.

Now in my 60’s I can see how it contributed to the meaning and purpose of my life, an experience that helped me develop compassion for myself and others, and offer a timid act of resistance to the relentless patriarchy of my religious tradition.

Circumstances meant I flew to Sydney for the abortion. Should have been straightforward but mistakes were made and my life was in jeopardy because of an unidentified bleed. A Kiwi nurse held my hand as I was packed full of dressings and hooked up to a continuous blood supply. The next day she went with me to theatre where the internal damage was found and repaired, just in time. How much her connectedness with me mattered.

I remember the way she looked deep into my soul during those days of despair.  It was as though God took on female form with compassion, acceptance and love writ large on a nurse’s face and in her ritual, nurturing actions.  All done within sight and sound of the patient who told her visitors in self-righteous tones, loud enough for me to hear, about ‘the abortion over there gone wrong’.

Soon I was back home in a New Zealand church attending a baby’s funeral. I cried incessantly, deep wracking sobs. Couldn’t stop and didn’t want to even though I was piggy backing on someone else’s grief and funeral rites. Where was the rite for the remains of the child I had aborted and for the sustenance of my soul? Who decided what was sacramental, or not?

20 years on whilst training to be an Anglican priest, I found myself reliving significant life experiences, including the abortion, and beginning to write Godde instead of God. It was code for the feminine aspect of God, the tiniest act of resistance to the avalanche of male dominated thought about what we might mean by God. Thank Godde for feminist theologians who fuelled my growing discontent.

My life experience as a woman, a priest and now working to integrate spiritual care in a district health board shows me that the stories we live by matter. Furthermore, the stories of that which we hold as sacred, the inspiration to live within the existential nothingness of the void, are mighty stories that carry unspoken layers about who we are and what we might become.  They work best within rituals that ground us in the uncertainty of life and offer inspiration, especially in dark times. Imagine what it might be like if there were more Godde stories to help us do this.

I suspect a form of religious fundamentalism drives abortion protesters and stops New Zealand politicians from addressing our outdated abortion laws. Unfortunately, as Marist priest and social anthropologist Dr Gerald Arbuckle says in his book Fundamentalism at Home and Abroad, fundamentalism is an emotional reaction to the disorienting experience of change and fundamentalists are not open to rational discussion. This skews conversation.

Conversations about how we understand life, its beginnings, endings and the messy bits in between are an evolving journey for all communities.  Our abortions matter in these conversations because they are so foundational in the mighty stories of our lives. They are excruciating moments that deserve the grounding of creative and compassionate rituals, not the destructive gauntlet of fundamentalist protest.