The Courage of Helen Paterson

The Courage of Helen Paterson

We already know how New Zealand’s abortion bureaucracy forces women to lie to get the health care they need. We have overlooked how it forces certifying consultants to lie to keep their jobs. That is, until Dr Helen Paterson came out as a pro-choice supporter.

The Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act directs the Abortion Supervisory Committee to have regard to the views of certifying consultants when appointing them or renewing their appointments. By ‘views’ the legislation means whether the certifying consultants can navigate a path between what the legislation sets out as two extremes: believing no abortion should ever be granted, or believing abortion should be a matter between a woman and her doctor.

I pause to note the two positions are not equally extreme. ‘No abortion ever’ is an extreme. The equal and opposite extreme would be something like ‘everyone gets an abortion whether they want one or not’. People choosing abortion and getting them by their own consent is a middle of the road position. But I digress.

The Human Rights Act says New Zealand cannot discriminate against people on the basis of their political or religious views. And yet, the CSA directs the Abortion Supervisory Committee to discriminate against candidates for a certifying consultant appointment on the basis of their political or religious views.

To believe the state has no right to force people to give birth and become parents against their will is a political view. To believe it is ethical for people to choose for themselves whether or not to continue a pregnancy is an ethical or religious view.

Dr Helen Paterson is a certifying consultant. She wrote to the Abortion Supervisory Committee last month, informing them of her political and religious beliefs. She told them she believes abortion is a matter for a woman and her doctor to decide.

The Abortion Supervisory Committee has not yet told Dr Paterson whether or not they will withdraw her appointment.

Right to Life New Zealand has called for Dr Paterson’s dismissal. Evidently, they only recognise human rights for foetuses, not pregnant people and not certifying consultants.

How will it turn out? We will keep you posted.

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t

If you have not yet read Mamari Stephens’s article in E-Tangata on welfare laws that beg to be broken, read it here. It’s excellent.

One thought struck me: there are parallels between crappy welfare law (and practice) and crappy abortion law (and practice). Both systems carry the implicit expectation that women should act against their own interests.

Stephens discusses how welfare law carries the presumption a women with a man in her life will receive financial support from him, which is the rationale for reducing the benefit a woman in such a relationship receives. The welfare system reinforces the prescriptive nature of that expectation – by reducing her benefit the law forcibly shifts her dependence onto a man who may turn out to be unreliable. Or worse.

Women maintain the independence their benefit gives them and their families by lying to WINZ about their circumstances.

Abortion law carries the presumption women should not make their own decisions about the contents of their uteri. Rather, they must apply to the medical profession (explicitly presumed to be male) for the approval of two certifying consultants in order to end a pregnancy. The grounds for abortion in the Crimes Act and the bureaucracy created by the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act leave the reader with the correct impression the Royal Commission intended that women should carry most pregnancies to term, like it or not.

Women with unwanted pregnancies maintain their bodily integrity by lying to the certifying consultants that their mental health would suffer if they were forced to carry the pregnancy. Certifying consultants assist them by pretending to believe them.

In both cases, women are forced to lie in order to keep something that would cost them and their families dearly if they had to give it up.

And then there is the stigma associated both with being on a benefit and getting an abortion. In a classic double bind, a woman with an unwanted pregnancy is forced to choose one to avoid the other. She gets judged no matter which she chooses.

Stephens writes “we need policies that will incentivise law keeping rather than law breaking. Let’s discuss those possibilities.”

For a country that supposedly reveres the rule of law, it’s long past time to start those discussions.

TRAPPED returns to Wellington!

TRAPPED returns to Wellington!

Back by popular demand!

If you missed TRAPPED last time around, we’ve got you covered. Come on down to the Light House Cinema on Cuba in central Wellington to see Dawn Porter’s award-winning documentary.

The film starts at 6 pm, but we will be there earlier with nibbles and conversation. Stay afterwards for a panel discussion on reproductive rights.

We would love to see you there!

TRAPPED

6 September 2017 6pm at the Light House Cinema on Cuba

Tickets: $20 waged, $10 unwaged

Email info@alranz.org to reserve tickets

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.