Hopeful Times

Hopeful Times

by Terry Bellamak

2020 was not all bad.

This was the year New Zealand joined the 21st century and decriminalised abortion, making it more accessible and treating it as a part of health care. People who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy will find it progressively easier to access the care they need as the Ministry of Health implements the new law.

Around the world views of abortion care are changing, sometimes amongst the people and sometimes amongst their leaders as well.

Poland’s government is still dealing with the massive blowback that ensued when their highest court attempted to tighten their retrograde abortion laws even further. The outrage has come not only from Poles, but from many other countries and NGOs, and it has been loud and long.

In Argentina, the new president has finally gotten around to proposing a law to make abortion care accessible there. The people of Argentina are ready.

Throughout Latin America, people are demanding change, throwing off the weight of cultural Catholicism and embracing equality for women and LGBTQI+ folks.

In the USA, though the Trump administration has managed to stack the highest court with rightwing hacks, the election of Biden has opened many options for improving access both nationally and internationally in spite of Trump’s toxic legacy. The first step will be to remove the Global Gag Rule as soon as possible, so that NGOs around the world can get back to providing the health care that people need.

Closer to home, soon all the Australian states will have liberalised abortion laws and safe areas as well.

And in Invercargill, when anti-choicers crashed the Santa Claus Parade, they had to do it underhand. The parade’s organisers apologised immediately because people complained. It no longer needs to be explained why advocating for forcing people to continue unwanted pregnancies is a bad thing.

History’s arc is long, but it really does bend toward justice. Treating women as a breed apart, uniquely obligated to sacrifice their bodies, interests, and free will to carry every pregnancy to term, is no longer considered acceptable by the vast majority of New Zealanders.

Around the world younger people are more likely to support equal rights in all forms, including reproductive rights, than their elders. A glance backward into history shows the trajectory of human rights and their increasing acceptance.

There is much reason to expect the future to be even brighter than the present.

Progressive is Normal for New Zealand

Progressive is Normal for New Zealand

by Terry Bellamak

 

This election was good news for supporters of reproductive rights. The results show that, unlike some places, New Zealand has no time for theocracy.

Parliamentary supporters of the Abortion Legislation Act (ALA) were re-elected in droves. Incumbents showed little inclination to downplay their support for reproductive rights.

Anti-abortion groups put together a not-very-widespread meme that listed those who voted ‘yes’ at third reading, intending it as a badge of shame. That may have backfired. Some probably used it as a handy list of whom to vote for.

On the other hand, those who voted against the ALA did not fare very well (unless they were Labour MPs). Of the 14 National MPs who lost their seats, 12 had spoken or voted (or both) against the ALA.

At worst, the ALA had no effect on the election. At best, supporting the ALA was an advantage in a country whose support for reproductive rights has consistently polled in the upper 60s.

This was bad news for religious ‘traditional family’ types, whose flagship party, the New Conservatives, received a drubbing. So did smaller parties with similar retrograde stances on reproductive rights, gender issues, and modern life in general.

The referenda brought more bad news for social conservatives. The End of Life Choice Act was soundly approved by 65% of voters. Voters shrugged off the ‘no’ campaign’s false claims of wholesale slaughter. The message that people should be able to choose whether or not to use assisted dying based on their own moral values seemed to resonate with voters.

Sadly, the cannabis referendum failed by a whisker – but the close result bodes well for the next time it comes up, which will doubtless be soon.

New Zealand’s socially progressive tendencies likely arise from its resolutely secular character. In 2018, census data showed almost half of New Zealanders, over 2.2 million, said they followed no religion. The next largest group was Anglicans, with a little over one tenth as many adherents as ‘none’.

The results of the election bear this out. New Zealand’s future is progressive.

Polish Authoritarians’ Miscalculation

Polish Authoritarians’ Miscalculation

by Terry Bellamak

A little over a week ago, Poland’s governing party reaped the rewards of its shameless stacking of Poland’s highest court with its political adherents. That court, Poland’s constitutional tribunal, ruled that abortions for fatal fetal abnormality were unconstitutional. This decision makes almost all abortions illegal.

Perhaps the ruling party and its fellow authoritarians in the Catholic church, which has exercised undue influence on Polish politics since the fall of the Soviet Union, expected the move would generate inward grumbling but little outward protest in these days of Covid-19. If so, it grossly miscalculated.

Since that day, Poland has experienced non-stop protests by massive crowds, composed mainly of young people. Opinion polls show 59% of the population disagrees with the constitutional court’s decision.

Protesters have stopped traffic, stormed churches, interrupted Catholic masses, and battled police in the streets. Many hold signs calling Poland “Women’s Hell.”

International condemnation has been swift. The Europeans Union, the United Nations and its CEDAW Committee, Amnesty International, and the Center for Reproductive Rights have all denounced the ruling as a violation of the human rights of women and people who can become pregnant.

People in Iceland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Greece, and the UK have offered assistance and solidarity. And that’s just the ones that made the news that I happened to find on a cursory search. People everywhere feel for the people of Poland, especially those who live in countries like Malta, where the laws are even worse.

Even Poland’s first lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, while calling women who continued doomed pregnancies “heroines”, expressed discomfort with the ruling. “[S]he questioned whether every single woman was capable of such heroism and expressed doubts whether women must be forced into such heroism at all.”

She has a point. “Heroism” that arises from compulsion is not noble or heroic – it’s oppression.

The situation in Poland bodes ill for the United States, whose right-wing government has also stacked the nation’s highest court with ideologues capable of denying bodily autonomy to half the population.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa stands in solidarity with the people of Poland as they resist this attack on their human rights.

ALRANZ Denounces US Senate Confirmation of Judge Barrett

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa denounces the US Senate’s confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court seat formerly held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“This action demonstrates the rank hypocrisy of the once-respected upper chamber of the US Congress. In the last year of President Obama’s term, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold confirmation hearings on Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court so close to an election. Now the Republican-controlled Senate has rushed through hasty confirmation of Trump’s nominee in the final weeks before the election. Their actions make a mockery of what was once held to be one of the premier deliberative bodies in the world,” said ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak.

Judge Barrett’s fringe conservative views are expected to lead to the overturning of US Supreme Court precedents around human rights, civil rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, separation of church and state, and control over corporations.

“This is a sad day for the people of the USA. We fear many more people may soon be forced to become parents against their will, or seek abortions outside the health care system at the risk of prosecution. We hope Americans turn out to vote – to mitigate the effects of this ugly, hypocritical confirmation,” said Bellamak.

“At this point, Justice Roberts is presiding over a Supreme Court that may be losing not only its respect and persuasiveness in other jurisdictions, but even its legitimacy in the eyes of Americans.”

New Zealand reformed its abortion laws in March of 2020, decriminalising the procedure and aligning it with other health care.

Refusal to Provide Contraception Stigmatises Users

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa sadly welcomes the results of Family Planning’s survey of contraception users, which shows 5% experience health practitioners obstructing their access to contraception.

“It’s maddening that in 2020 people still have to deal with the judgmental attitudes of some busybodies in lab coats,” said ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak. “Family Planning has done a real service by quantifying the problem of stigmatising contraception.”

The report said some Kiwis whose GPs obstruct access to contraception also made remarks that showed they “clearly disapproved of my choice, and not only offered me no help, but asked me very inappropriate questions, and made me feel disgusting.”

 “I question whether GPs who feel entitled to pass judgment on their patients’ sexual morality when requested to supply safe, legal health care belong in the profession. People go to their GP for health care, not moral instruction,” said Bellamak.

ALRANZ calls on the government to amend the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 to adequately deal with conscientious obstruction.

She went on: “The Abortion Legislation Bill sought to improve the lot of patients with scolds for doctors by requiring them to give their patients details on the closest places to access the care they refused to provide. But the law can’t make them treat their patients decently.

“Such GPs’ actions make no logical or scientific sense. If they also disapprove of abortion, they should be facilitating access to the one thing that is proven to lower the abortion rate.”

New Zealand reformed its abortion laws in March of 2020, decriminalising the procedure and aligning it with other health care.