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.

Understanding Family First New Zealand v Attorney-General

Understanding Family First New Zealand v Attorney-General

by Ella Shepherd

Since 2013, Family First New Zealand (one of the most prominent anti-choice lobby groups in the country) has been battling its deregisteration and loss of charity status with the Charities Board. On Thursday the Court of Appeal released its ruling. The Court held (Gilbert J dissenting) that Family First was a charity, and qualified for registration under the Act.

Family First said that it qualified to be a charity under two limbs: it advanced educational initiatives; and, provided other beneficial services to the community through promoting strong families. In addition, it had to show its other endeavours were all related to these two key purposes. 

Firstly, the Court was persuaded that Family First commissioned research reports that “largely resemble…that of a journal article in the relevant field”. This showed that Family First had a “clear purpose of stimulating a public debate…on important social issues relevant to families”. It therefore met the criteria for being a charity that advanced education. 

Secondly, the Court was bound by the recent Supreme Court decision in Re Greenpeace that held political advocacy groups were to be seen as promoting a public good, and could be eligible for charitable status. As the law has long recognised that stable families are in the public good, Family First qualified under this limb too. 

The final hurdle for Family First was to show that any other activities were merely ancillary to its charitable purpose. This refers to its political lobbying not directly linked to its family-focus, such as its opposition to the End of Life Choice Act. The Court held that Family First’s engagement on issues such as abortion, prostitution, censorship, and anti-smoking was part of its “broader purpose of supporting marriage and family as being foundational to a strong and enduring society”. Just because the activity was political, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t helping Family First’s main goal of family advocacy.

For these reasons, the Court decided it was eligible to be registered as a charity. What does this mean? 

Family First is once again a registered charity and is now tax exempt. This means it has more cash to put up billboards criticising independent choice on social issues. On the bright side, this decision further entrenches the Supreme Court’s position in Greenpeace that political lobbying can provide a public benefit.  This makes it easier for other truly beneficial political groups to become registered charities. 

Finally, the Court gave Family First a warning. Its activities were only in the public good because Family First said it promoted stable families. The Court said this would change if Family First was promoting traditional families instead. This might limit how Family First conducts its lobbying around stable, but non-traditional families, such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt children. Furthermore, advocating for positions that aren’t covered by promoting the public good of strong families (for example, cannabis reform) might be off-limits for Family First. The Court noted that Family First will need to bear that in mind in future. 

Ultimately, the majority opinion took a disappointingly shallow view on what Family First actually does. It ignored that Family First’s lobbying for the ‘public good’ often came at the expense of women, members of the rainbow community, and other minorities. By affirming that Family First operates in the public good the Court gives a veneer of undue credibility to Family First’s activities. 

Ella Shepherd studies law at the University of Auckland.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa AGM

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa AGM

7pm Thursday 6 August 2020

on Zoom

Get your tickets here.

ALRANZ’s 2020 AGM will be held online this year, so that our members from all over the country can participate. Welcome to the next phase of the struggle!
You must be a member to attend the AGM. Please sign up for a ticket – that’s how we know where to send the Zoom link.
Who is Practicing Medicine?

Who is Practicing Medicine?

by Terry Bellamak

National MP Harete Hipango spent last week peddling the myth that because we reformed our abortion laws, people will get abortions right up until birth. It follows that she does not trust health practitioners or pregnant people. 

Those who followed the abortion debate last autumn will be aware that pregnancies that last 20 weeks are most likely wanted pregnancies, and that sometimes they must end because of a medical crisis. Those who paid attention will dismiss Hipango as an anti-choice extremist. But her lack of trust in health practitioners is not unique.

Parliament itself has shown it does not trust health practitioners to practice medicine without input from lawmakers, at least when it comes to reproductive health. If they did, they would leave them to it, like they do for other medical specialties.

This is not optimal. When lawmakers try to practice medicine, it never ends well. This is because lawmaking and medicine have fundamentally different alignments. 

Medicine is individual – doctors make decisions about the individual person in front of them, the patient, based on their unique circumstances. What is right for one person may not be right for another person, even in an identical situation. The job of a doctor is to serve both of those patients in the best way possible for them as individuals, even if it means treating them differently. 

Lawmaking is focused on aggregations of people, broad groups for whom they make rules. The rules are general and apply to everyone in the designated group. The law has a natural propensity to treat two people in similar circumstances the same, whether it is best for them or not.

This is why hard cases make bad law. The majority of people in a group may be served, or at least not harmed, by the rules affecting that group. But people at the edges may find the rules work against them in ways lawmakers did not intend.

For example, let’s say Parliament decided no abortions would be permitted after 20 weeks unless the pregnant person’s life was in danger. So if a foetus’s lung development was compromised such that it would asphyxiate shortly after birth, the parents would be required to give birth at the natural time and watch their baby die. 

For some parents, this would be their choice – a chance to meet their baby and hold it while it receives palliative care to ease its passing. But other parents would rather spare their child suffering by ending the pregnancy. For them, it would be a nightmare to carry their child to term knowing they would have to watch them smother to death. 

And just how close to death would the pregnant person need to be to allow abortion after 20 weeks? In Ireland, before the 8th amendment was repealed, abortion was allowed to save the mother’s life. But that did not save Savita Halappanavar – doctors did not understand or trust the law. So they let Savita die.

It turns out doctors are just as bad at practicing law as lawmakers are at practicing medicine.

Tempting as it might be for lawmakers to jump in and make medical decisions themselves by passing laws, the result is not good medical care. It forces a one-size-fits-all approach to decisions that should be tailored to the person or persons involved.

ALRANZ Deplores National MPs’ Abortion Myths

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa deplores the statements of National MPs Harete Hipango and Simon O’Conner on Facebook, alleging New Zealand’s reformed abortion legislation allows full term babies to be aborted.

“What they are saying is wrong on so many levels,” said ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak. “In the first place, abortion is about embryos and foetuses, never babies.

“In the second place, the old legislation also allowed abortions after 20 weeks. But here’s the important thing: a pregnancy that lasts for 20 weeks or more is a wanted pregnancy. If that pregnancy has to end in abortion, it’s because the pregnant person’s health is in danger, or the foetus has a fatal anomaly.

“If the foetus is viable, the health care team waits as long as possible to give it the best chance of survival before inducing labour. When a foetus proceeds from the uterus in a living state, that is called ‘birth’.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, when asked for comment on Hipango’s post, gently suggested it would be better if MPs based their views on facts.

Justice Minister Andrew Little was blunter, calling Hipango’s comments “silly.”

He added, “If Judith Collins is happy to have a bunch of radical, anti-abortion extremists running the show on social media, that’s a matter for her.”

Bellamak concluded, “This kind of scaremongering insults the intelligence of everyone they expect it would work on.”

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