Losing Our Religion

Losing Our Religion

by Craig Young

The Aotearoa/New Zealand anti-abortion movement still doesn’t get it. In the United States, there’s at least some semblance of ersatz pluralism, despite the fact that their movement is overwhelmingly dominated by conservative Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants. There are self-labelled anti-abortion “agnostics and atheists”, pseudofeminists, LGBTQI+ gtroups, scientists, pagans, medical practitioners, ad nauseum. This adds some unconvincing garnishing to the US anti-abortion movement. Some anti-abortion Orthodox Jews and Muslims are also involved in both Britain and the United States.

But in Aotearoa/New Zealand? Their movement is oblivious to the need to look secular in the context of plummeting Christian religious observance. There is only one Maori figure, Hilary Kieft, in Taranaki and no Maori organisations listed in the anti-abortion March for Life’s list of endorsers, which seem to consist entirely of fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Catholics- Couples for Christ, Family Life International NZ, Family First, Right to Life New Zealand, Voice for Life New Zealand, Jesus for NZ, Promise Keepers, John Paul II Centre for Life, NZ Catholic Bishops Conference, (fundamentalist) NZ Christian Network, and the Executive Presbytery of the Assemblies of God. Notice something? Well, for starters, there are no mainline Protestants, no-one from other faith groups, no self-professed atheists or agnostics, no anti-abortion womens groups, and no medical or scientific organisations whatsoever. Proof, if anyone ever needed it, that the New Zealand/Aotearoa anti-abortion movement is almost wholly pakeha and conservative Christian. And they’re certainly not out there to win friends and influence people- Family First’s Bob McCoskrie dislikes progressive Christians, Voice for Life doesn’t even pretend to be politically nonpartisan anymore, and McCoskrie also thinks the anti-abortion movement needs more men.

We should be happy at this outcome. If they carry on this way, they will be unable to deal with either side of Aotearoa/New Zealand politics, with Labour and the Greens already uninclined to listen to them due to their blatant partisan bias and National and ACT trying to distance themselves from an unpopular extremist movement.  The New Conservatives, One Party and Vision New Zealand might make occasional anti-abortion noises, but they’re more obsessed with the anti-vaccination movement than with other fringe opponents of reproductive freedom and LGBTQI issues.

Burning Down the House

Burning Down the House

by Terry Bellamak

Back in May, when the US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson was leaked by persons unknown, the world thought such treachery was unprecedented in US history. It turns out we were wrong.

The Rev Bob Schenck, a former anti-abortion leader turned whistle-blower, disclosed to Chief Justice Roberts (and now to the New York Times) that in 2014 Justice Alito leaked the results of the Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision to Schenck’s agents, whom he called “stealth missionaries.” The leak gave Schenck and other conservative parties with an interest in the decision a head start on their public relations work. 

This revelation throws unexpected light on the Dobbs leak. At the time, astute court watchers speculated radical conservatives on the court leaked the decision to lock in Chief Justice Roberts’s yes vote and to prevent his persuading other justices to water it down. 

The justice with the most to gain by such a move was Justice Alito himself, who wrote the decision. Given his alleged form in this area, he now appears to be the prime suspect in the May leak.

Both the leak and the Dobbs decision itself have brought the US Supreme Court into unprecedented disrepute. It has reinforced the prevailing perception of the court as a haven for partisan right-wing hackery. Even the lower courts have joined in the criticism, as did Judge Robert CI McBurney of the Superior Court of Fulton County in Georgia, in a pithy footnote to his decision in Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective v State of Georgia

Despite its frothy language disparaging the views espoused by previous Justices, the magic of Dobbs is not its special insight into historical “facts” or its monopoly on constitutional hermeneutics. It is simply numbers. More Justices today believe that the U.S. Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body than did in that same institution 50 years ago. This new majority has provided our nation with a revised (and controlling) interpretation of what the unchanged words of the U.S. Constitution really mean. And until that interpretation changes again, it is the law.

What can you do when an institution that has no effective oversight becomes politicised? And loses not only the appearance of impartiality, but the reality as well?

If Alito is the culprit, he might as well be on a mission to destroy the Roberts court, or even SCOTUS itself. He’s like an arsonist in a house made of straw.

 

“Abortion Reversal” is Dangerous

“Abortion Reversal” is Dangerous

by Terry Bellamak

In mid-September Pharmac decided to fully fund progesterone. The change is expected to increase access to hormone replacement therapy for symptoms of menopause.

Progesterone has another, more sinister unapproved use, as part of anti-choice movement’s dance of misogyny. They call it “abortion reversal,” and say it is for all those pregnant people who take the first pill, then suddenly change their mind (reinforcing the myth of female indecision and fickleness).

In 2012 Dr George Delgado, an anti-abortion doctor in California, released his study of six women who took progesterone after having taken mifipristone, to stop their medical abortions. According to Delgado, four of the six continued their pregnancies.

In 2019, researchers from the University of California at Davis tried to replicate Delgado’s findings in a randomised, controlled trial. Safety concerns, however, caused them to end the study after just 12 patients had been enrolled. Three of the enrolled patients experienced severe haemorrhage requiring hospital care.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology says “abortion reversal” is not backed by science, and calls it “unproven and unethical.” The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada warns that it can cause serious complications for patients. The American Medical Association calls it “patently false” and “unproven.” No reputable medical association supports this unapproved use of progesterone.

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Health advises patients can change their minds about abortion right up until the abortion begins. At that point the abortion cannot be reversed. This advice accords with the advice of respected international medical bodies.

So why are we talking about this?

Because there may be anti-abortion doctors in Aotearoa who might be willing to gamble with their patients’ health by prescribing progesterone for this unapproved “abortion reversal.” Any doctor who behaves so recklessly should face sanctions from whatever medical body they belong to, be it the College of General Practitioners, the Royal Australia New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, or the Medical Council of New Zealand.

Right now, after Pharmac’s announcement, would be the best time for these medical associations to spell out what sanctions would be taken against practitioners who are found to have prescribed progesterone for this purpose. Considering the risks, those sanctions should be serious.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa calls upon the College of General Practitioners, the Royal Australia New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, or the Medical Council of New Zealand to denounce the unapproved use of progesterone for “abortion reversal” and to state the penalties they will impose on doctors who gamble with their patients’ health in this way.

 

International Safe Abortion Day

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa lends our voice to organisations across the world to support free, safe, and legal access to abortion. Abortion is only one part of the larger framework of reproductive justice that includes the right to bodily autonomy, the choice to parent or not, and a supportive environment to care for children. 

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa President, Tracy Morison, said “abortion is healthcare, and anyone who wishes to continue or to end a pregnancy should be able to do so safely”. Abortion is a medically necessary and safe component of comprehensive reproductive medical care.

Abortion has been treated as a health issue in Aotearoa New Zealand, not a crime since March 2020. Statistics show improved access to abortion care: it is being accessed earlier allowing the option of less invasive medical abortion (pills) rather than surgery. There is also the potential for greater accessibility for rural and underserved populations though the 0800 DECIDE National Abortion Telehealth Service.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa supports the continued expansion of abortion services to meet the diverse needs of the community and will continue to support and monitor the implementation of safe areas to reduce the harassment of those accessing abortion. 

Law reform and the right to choose was decades in the making and, as recent events in the USA have shown, this right needs to be safeguarded. Research shows that most Aotearoa New Zealanders support safe legal abortions, but a small, vocal anti-choice faction has progressed their agenda by spreading disinformation about abortion. It is imperative that the facts about abortion are broadcasted everywhere.

We call on governments and people around the world, including Aotearoa, to stand up for reproductive justice. We demand the right to safe abortion today and every day, for everyone. 

To take action on International Safe Abortion Day, we encourage people to:

  • Contact your local MP to express support for abortion access and 100%
  • funding in all aspects of providing abortion services.
  • Organise stigma-busting conversations and events.
  • Join and/or donate to pro-choice organisations
  • Know (and share) the facts on abortion and how to access abortion using
  • credible sources 
  • Support organizations providing services. Reach out to your local abortion
  • provider to express your support.
  • Elect pro-choice candidates to office.

ALRANZ welcomes good news from Kansas

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa hails the failure of a Kansas referendum that would have removed protection for abortion rights from the state’s constitution. The vote is a strong demonstration of the popularity of abortion rights in the United States of America, even in conservative states like Kansas. US polls consistently show support for reproductive rights in the 60%’s.

ALRANZ president Dr Tracy Morison said, “It is a relief to see voters pushing back successfully against anti-abortion politicians’ undemocratic attempts to restrict the fundamental human right to bodily autonomy. It looks like the US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs may have provoked a backlash.”

Abortion access in the US in the wake of the overturn of Roe v Wade has become a patchwork with different states restricting or protecting access to abortion. Kansas has been a midwestern bulwark for protection of access to abortion. In 2009 Dr George Tiller was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist while Dr Tiller was serving as an usher at his church in Wichita, Kansas. 

New Zealand reformed its abortion laws in 2020, legalising abortion up to 20 weeks as a matter of right. The Ministry of Health is in the process of implementing the law to fulfil the promise of increased access to services. 0800 DECIDE (or www.decide.org.nz) is the most comprehensive element of that effort to date.

ALRANZ urges New Zealanders to remain vigilant regarding our rights. ALRANZ believes abortion is a fundamental human right, but as we have seen in the US, a hard won right is not always guaranteed.