Oral arguments on Mississippi abortion ban a dark day for women everywhere

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa deplores the apparent rolling back of the fundamental human right to bodily autonomy in the United States.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa Executive Committee member Ella Shepherd said the arguments run in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization show a court “willing to control a woman’s most personal decisions about her body and her family”.

While devastating for American women, the likely outcome of Dobbs also demonstrates why Aotearoa cannot afford to become complacent.

Shepherd notes “this is a world where some countries remain steadfast in their attempts to erode and control reproductive freedoms. The arguments in Dobbs show how settled political realities can fall to partisan politics.”

In New Zealand, it is promising to see last year abortion was removed from the Crimes Act in a 68-51 majority vote. However, one of our two major parties is led by someone who still considers people who receive abortion care to be murderers.

Now more than ever it is important that Aotearoa continues to protect abortion rights and provide safe access to abortion care. ALRANZ denounces the path being taken by the Supreme Court in the United States and will remain vigilant to ensure a similar path is not taken in Aotearoa.

National Party’s new conscience not representative of Aotearoa’s values

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa notes the appointment of Christopher Luxon as new leader for the National Party, and Nicola Willis as deputy leader.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa spokesperson Dr Tracy Morison said “Christopher Luxon’s well-publicised anti-abortion views are not representative of the values of mainstream New Zealanders, who overwhelmingly supported reform”.

Dr Tracy Morison, interim President of ALRANZ

Luxon said on Checkpoint following his appointment that his pro-life stance is not “a big issue” because abortion was decriminalized last year, and his deputy Nicola Willis is pro-choice.

Tracy Morison notes that “most people seeking abortion care in Aotearoa would disagree strongly with Christopher on this point”. Luxon’s refusal to answer whether he thought abortion was murder indicates he understands he is out of step with most New Zealanders.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa wish Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis well, but intend to monitor the extent that views such as his may have on the provision of safe and equitable abortion care in Aotearoa, particularly when considering the upcoming vote on the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill.

Safe areas and the intersection between the anti-abortion and anti-vax movements

Safe areas and the intersection between the anti-abortion and anti-vax movements

By Ella Shepherd

On Tuesday, Kieran McAnulty (MP for the Wairarapa) shared his story about encounters with the anti-vax movement of Aotearoa. While speaking to his Wairarapa electorate, Kieran described being verbally assaulted and receiving numerous death threats, all while being filmed by his anti-vax assailant. This was a vile incident that rightly caused Kieran to fear for his safety.

Kieran spoke to Parliamentary Security about extending measures to protect MPs, such as installing security systems in MPs’ residences in both Wellington and their electorates. Such an assault on an MP is nerve-racking. Kieran noted that the mood changed pretty quickly, creating a volatile situation. Other MPs, such as Chris Bishop, have also described receiving “pretty abusive” messages. Likewise, David Seymour said MPs are becoming aware “we have to watch our back” [sic] because of heated interactions with constituents. Across Parliament there is consensus: threats of violence from anti-vaxxers are starting to escalate. Of course, this is awful. Anti-vaxxers take hard-line positions, are unwilling to compromise, and cross boundaries to reinforce their point. These confrontations are scary, and MPs are right to worry about their safety. As Kieran noted, situations can escalate quickly and create dangerous environments.

There is a parallel between anti-vax protesters targeting MPs and anti-abortion protestors targeting those accessing and providing abortion healthcare. First, the groups have considerable overlap in membership. Recent protests at Parliament came with signs that were both anti-abortion and anti-vax. As we can see in the photo above, many in the anti-vax movement are also anti-abortion. Furthermore, some of the key anti-abortion groups whose supporters regularly target abortion clinics also take an anti-vax stance. For example, Right to Life New Zealand’s Facebook page now posts a mix of anti-abortion and anti-vax rhetoric, such as this post from the 31st of October (below). 

 These aggressive and threatening tactics are not new – abortion providers and patients have long been targeted by these groups. It’s just that now MPs are also experiencing a taste. More MPs are being confronted with people getting up in their face while they are minding their business. With people filming them and uploading footage online to encourage others to join in on the threatening behaviour. With being called a murderer. 

For MPs to now recognise that these behaviours are frightening is to finally accept what pregnant people and abortion providers have been saying for decades. After meeting with Parliament Security earlier this week, Kieran stated that all MPs would now be granted access to a security

 

upgrade, rather than having to ask for one. Meanwhile, pregnant people and abortion providers are still advocating for the Safe Areas Amendment Bill to be passed. Put simply, it would be hypocritical in the extreme for an MP to vote against abortion providers and patients getting protection from the same sort of harassment that MPs are able to protect themselves from, promptly and without hoop jumping.

While MPs can now access upgraded security, abortion providers and patients still have to go through a lengthy process. Not only are they waiting for the Bill to be passed, but once it is passed protection isn’t even ensured. Providers will still have to wait for the Minister of Health to consult with the Minister of Justice, and then recommend the establishment of a safe area. This is lengthy, discretionary, and does not accord with the reality of harassment outside abortion centres.

MPs and Parliament more broadly are aware that these people threaten the safety of others by pushing their anti-vax ideology onto unwilling citizens. MPs are able to push for greater protection for themselves in the face of these assaults. What are they doing to also protect abortion providers and patients? How are they ensuring safe areas are established in a timely and effective manner? Relatively privileged MPs are now feeling the heat, but ordinary people and healthcare workers are well and truly scalded.

ALRANZ President Stepping Down

ALRANZ President Stepping Down

It is with equal amounts of bittersweet nostalgia and bracing anticipation that I announce I am stepping down from the ALRANZ presidency.

It has been an honour and a privilege to lead this organisation through the years in which our long-held purpose came to fruition. Abortion is now legal, it is health care, and it is the unquestioned right of every pregnant person up to 20 weeks gestation. When I reflect on abortion law reform, I am deeply proud of our country, and of our work.

I chose to step down now, because it feels like the right time. ALRANZ’s mission is changing. Our role now is to hold the health system, and by extension the government, to account for its implementation of the laws and regulations relating to reproductive health care and rights, and the systems and processes it develops to effect that implementation.

Of course, to hold the health system accountable we need the help of folks who have had trouble getting reproductive health care. We need to know what is happening. So ALRANZ has added a page to our website to make it easy to tell your story – anonymously it you prefer. We really want to hear from you – about any problems you experience with reproductive health care. If you experience harassment, disrespect, health practitioners who try to obstruct access, ‘unbiased’ counselling that turns out to be anti-abortion coercion, or just run-of-the-mill stuff-ups, we want to hear about it. This is how we can make sure problems get fixed.

Our shift in focus makes this the best time for me to step away into other things, and to let new faces and minds and hands take up the work. To this end, I am delighted to announce Dr Tracy Morison has agreed to serve as interim president of ALRANZ, from now till the AGM. Tracy is a distinguished academic whose focus is reproductive health care. She has been doing a bang-up job for years in this space, and ALRANZ is lucky to have her.

When I look back over the past 6 years, the best part of the whole experience has been the supporters and allies who have given so much to this struggle and ensured its success. To list everyone would take pages and pages. Many of them are now good friends. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I will still be around on ALRANZ’s executive committee to provide institutional knowledge and other annoyances. Many thanks to successive executive committees, to Dame Margaret Sparrow, and to all the membership of ALRANZ for the opportunity to be of service.

All the best,

Terry Bellamak

ALRANZ Gets New Interim President

Longtime ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak announced she is stepping down from the role. Dr Tracy Morison will take over as interim president until the next ALRANZ AGM.

In her final post, Bellamak said, “It has been an honour and a privilege to lead this organisation through the years in which our long-held purpose came to fruition. Abortion is now legal, it is health care, and it is the unquestioned right of every pregnant person up to 20 weeks gestation. When I reflect on abortion law reform, I am deeply proud of our country, and of our work.”

Bellamak also urged anyone who has experienced problems with reproductive health care to help ALRANZ hold the health system to account by using a new feature on the ALRANZ website. It facilitates people explaining what happened to them and helps ALRANZ to monitor the abortion care system.

Dr Morison is a senior lecturer in psychology at Massey University. Her research covers broad areas of health psychology, critical psychology, and feminism.

Dr Morison said, “Terry has done a sterling job steering ALRANZ these past years and her dynamic can-do leadership will be missed. At the same time, she’s stalwart in the reproductive rights movement and will still be very much involved in ALRANZ’s work. I’m honoured to stand in the gap as we plot our course in this new and hard-won post-reform phase.”

New Zealand reformed its abortion laws in 2020. The Government is in the process of ramping up the reproductive health care system to implement the new law.