A Different Take on Alabama

A Different Take on Alabama

by Terry Bellamak

Right-wing American states, especially those in the Deep South, seem to be vying to see who can trash women’s human right to bodily autonomy the most. Georgia has passed legislation that purports to criminalise Georgians who receive abortion care outside Georgia. Ohio has legislators who think ectopic pregnancies do not require abortion care because the embryo can be relocated to the uterus (which is impossible, and an illustration why legislators should not try to practice medicine). Now Alabama wants to require rape and incest victims to carry their abusers’ children.

Whenever the New Zealand media publishes a story about the US returning to the Dark Ages, there are always comments congratulating ourselves that such things will never happen here, because we are a secular society, and our extremist anti-choice busybodies are few in number.

That may be, but it’s not what will save us from the States’ fate.

Travesties like rolling back basic human rights for women are part of a long game that the American right wing has been playing for many years. Targeted regulations to put abortion providers out of business are only the most obvious of their tactics. Greater damage has come from attacks on democracy itself.

Tactics like gerrymandering, that is, state legislators drawing electoral boundaries to maximise safe Republican seats, have resulted in perpetual Republican majorities in many state legislatures. The US Senate dismantled a long-established constitutional convention by refusing to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, which directly resulted in stacking the Supreme Court with right-wing activist justices during the Trump administration. Those justices have banded together to trash the common law convention of stare decisis, that is, respect for the court’s previous decisions.

Anti-abortion legislation like Alabama’s is intended to eventually end up in the hands of the Supreme Court. Given the composition of the court, anti-choice right-wingers have every reason to expect Roe v Wade will be struck down, even though the majority of Americans support reproductive rights.

To make abortion illegal, they are willing to thwart the will of the majority. That they are able to do so is the result of years spent undermining democratic institutions. That is the American tragedy we are seeing today.

MMP keeps Parliament accountable to voters. But it’s not enough. We need to hold MPs accountable between elections by letting them know what’s on our minds, and what we expect of them. We must be willing to use our two votes to discipline parties that fail to keep their promises.

If we New Zealanders want to keep our democracy safe, we need to tend it properly. It needs our critical thinking, our participation, and our vigilance.

ALRANZ Deplores Alabama’s Abortion Bill

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa deplores the Alabama senate’s passage of a bill that makes abortion care illegal even in cases of rape or incest.

“This legislation is draconian and cruel towards women and pregnant people, especially those who have survived rape or incest. It’s almost as though the Alabama senate does not consider women to be people,” said Terry Bellamak, ALRANZ National president.

“In 2016 the UN Special Rapporteur on torture found denial of access to abortion care constitutes torture. It seems evident the USA’s former leadership in civil and human rights is at an end.

“Of course, rape is not a legal ground for abortion care under New Zealand law either, but at least the Government has committed to abortion law reform.

“Everyone deserves the freedom to decide for themselves whether and when to become a parent.

“We expect the New Zealand government to follow through on its commitment to the people of Aotearoa, who overwhelmingly support reproductive rights, according to recent polling by Newshub.”

In New Zealand, abortion is still in the Crimes Act.

ALRANZ wants to reform New Zealand’s laws around abortion care. Under New Zealand’s 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. 

Still Waiting.

Still Waiting.

The Labour coalition has been in government for 18 months now. Half its term is now in the past.

And abortion care is still in the Crimes Act.

This government has done more and gone farther than any previous government to fix the travesty of our abortion care system. The Law Commission’s carefully considered report sets out the situation clearly, with options for solutions. They reported back 6 months ago.

And still there is no bill.

If this were not a matter of fundamental human rights, maybe it wouldn’t matter quite so much that there is still nothing in the legislative pipeline after 6 months.

But every day across New Zealand women are lying about their mental health status, because it is the only way they can legally receive the safe, routine care they need. Every day they run from pillar to post, ticking the pointless legal boxes. Every day West Coasters board the bus for Christchurch, having scraped up the money to pay for the ticket. Those who can’t find the money somewhere can only watch the bus leave, and wish they were on it.

The fact this situation has gone on for 40-odd years does not mean it is not a crisis.

Every time someone is denied abortion care they requested, every time someone is too afraid of their GP’s pinch-mouthed moral judgment to request a referral for abortion care, every time someone lies that her mental health is fragile and dies a little inside, it’s crisis to them.

Half its term is still in the future. The coalition needs to get on with it.

Get Up, Stand Up

Get Up, Stand Up

by Terry Bellamak

After the Christchurch terrorist attacks, a lot of us are feeling vulnerable. Muslims, immigrants, people of colour, people with disabilities, nonbinary and gender diverse people, and women have all been shaken by the inescapable reality that hatred is alive and well, even in little old New Zealand.

The shooter’s far-right ideology takes aim at all marginalised groups. After all, the Venn diagram of white supremacists and male supremacists is pretty close to a circle. We need an even bigger circle of those who stand up to racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination. 

It would be natural for reproductive rights advocates to back off for fear of becoming a target of the far-right. Law reform is on the table this year, and that creates many target-rich environments as people gather together to talk about reproductive rights and call for change. 

Your chances of being killed in a terrorist attack are miniscule. So are your chances of getting pregnant while on contraception, or running across a certifying consultant who isn’t satisfied you meet the grounds in the Crimes Act. 

But those things happen, and they matter quite a lot to the people they happen to. 

So let’s work to prevent them, or at least minimise the damage they cause. We can stand up and call out injustice and bigotry when we see it. We can demand Parliament to stop treating women as though they were incompetent to make their own medical decisions. If not us, then who?

And so, we fight. We still might lose. But if we don’t fight, we have already lost.

Let’s double down instead. 

Come to the panel discussion in at the Freeman’s Bay Community Centre in Auckland on Tuesday – I’ll see you there. Come to ALRANZ’s Meeting of the Minds on April 6 – I’ll see you there.

Reproductive rights are human rights. Somebody should fight for them. You are somebody.

ALRANZ Meeting of Minds + AGM

ALRANZ Meeting of Minds + AGM

This meeting is for anyone who wants to talk about abortion law reform. There will be speakers, and discussion, and ALRANZ’s AGM. Let’s do all we can to make 2019 the year we get law reform!

Saturday 6 April 2019 3pm

Location TBD