This is big.

When it comes to reproductive rights, Ireland was the big bad. It was one of the last bastions of medieval Catholic cultural hegemony left in Europe.

Now the bastion has fallen to forces of equality, of modernity. Not for nothing did Martin Luther King Jr famously say the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Ireland was the place of Magdalene laundries, mother and baby homes, no divorce, no contraception, and clerical sexual abuse with impunity. That terrible legacy is gone now. Soon Irish women will be able to get abortion care in their home country.

All these changes have come within a single lifespan. It boggles.

Most of these changes came earlier to New Zealand. But abortion was the exception to New Zealand’s vaunted progressivism. Our legal regime is older than Ireland’s. It’s less Draconian, but almost as hypocritical.

New Zealand went from illegal abortion, to a single maverick clinic in the early 1970s, to the unwelcome and retrograde legal regime imposed in 1977, to the surreptitiously permissive application of that law while successive governments looked the other way for 40 years.

Now we seem to have a government willing to address the issue of abortion law reform and to bring our country’s laws into the 21c.

Good intentions count for a lot, because they get things started. But between intention and completion lies a lot of ground for political manoeuvring. To get the kind of law reform that puts an end to discrimination against women and pregnant people, that acknowledges our right to bodily autonomy, we must keep pressure on our elected representatives.

Today we celebrate for Ireland. But we dare not be complacent for New Zealand.

ALRANZ Congratulates Ireland

ALRANZ congratulates the Republic of Ireland on the repeal of the 8thamendment. The Irish Times has reported exit polls predict a landslide in favour of changing the constitution to permit the government to introduce legislation allowing pregnant people to access abortion care in Ireland.

“After years of scathing criticism from the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the European Court of Human Rights, and Amnesty International, years of women being forced to travel to another country to receive necessary health care, and the unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar, the Irish government has finally given Irish people a chance to speak. They overwhelmingly said yes to bodily autonomy, human dignity, and the human rights of women and pregnant people,” said ALRANZ National president Terry Bellamak.

“If Ireland can cast away medieval opinion and embrace the reality that women are people, so can New Zealand.”

“The Irish government has promised to introduce legislation providing for abortion care on request up to 12 weeks, with no reason given. When the law is passed, Ireland’s abortion laws will be more progressive than New Zealand’s.”

The Ministry of Justice, Andrew Little, has asked the New Zealand Law Commission to review the country’s abortion laws with the intention of treating abortion as a health matter rather than a criminal matter. During the election campaign, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to reform New Zealand’s abortion laws, making abortion care available as a matter of right.

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

Poll results show a majority of New Zealanders support the right to access abortion on request.

Counter Protest the Booties?

Counter Protest the Booties?

What: Voice for Life is planning to arrange 12,000 pairs of booties on Parliament grounds in Wellington to represent the number of abortions last year. The demonstration, we are told, will be timed to coincide with the release of abortion data by Stats NZ.

Here is the original article talking about this event.

When: TBD

This counter protest is for a Voice for Life event that has not yet been scheduled. We will update this event page as soon as we know more.

Where: Parliament Grounds, Wellington

How: When it comes to political demonstrations here in New Zealand, whoever is the bigger arsehole wins the arsehole sweepstakes and loses public opinion. Voice for Life has appropriated the idea of empty footwear symbolising loss of life from the YesWeCare shoe project, memorialising suicide victims. The idea or comparing living, thinking, feeling people with relationships, memories, and dreams to human foetuses that have not yet developed the physical structures necessary for thought, feeling, or volition is repulsive. They are winning the arsehole sweepstakes.

Let’s keep them winning by showing up with plenty of positivity. Should we encounter any anger or discord, let’s meet it with patience and a phone recording the video.

It looks like there will be lots of different groups doing their own thing – and that’s awesome! We hope it will contribute to a fun, carnival-like atmosphere.

Watch this space for more information about ALRANZ’s plans.

Why: Their ‘memorial’ is designed to focus on foetuses and disappear the pregnant people who were carrying them. We need to refocus attention on the pregnant people, and with empathy, not judgment.

ALRANZ Wishes Ireland a Successful Repeal of the 8th

ALRANZ wishes the Irish people all the best in their referendum to repeal the 8thamendment to Ireland’s constitution and allow Irish women to receive abortion care in the home country.

The 8thamendment, which equates the mother’s right to life with the foetus’s, makes it almost impossible for Irish women to receive abortion care, even when the pregnancy threatens their lives. It led to the death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway in 2012.

On TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning, ALRANZ national president Terry Bellamak said the repeal was a necessary first step to making abortion care more accessible. The next step would be legislation.

The Irish government’s proposed legislation would “give Irish women the right to get an abortion up to twelve weeks for any reason,” said Bellamak.

“At that point, their laws would be more liberal than New Zealand’s.”

The Ministry of Justice has asked the New Zealand Law Commission to review the country’s abortion laws with the intention of treating it as a health matter rather than a criminal matter.

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

Poll results show a majority of New Zealanders support the right to access abortion on request.

Kate Speaks

Kate Speaks

My name is Kate.* My request for an abortion was denied by the Waitematā District Health Board, you may have read my story here, and here.

When I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I was in no place to raise a child financially, physically or emotionally. I simply did not have the resources to look after another human being.

As much as I wanted to keep the baby, I made the difficult decision to seek an abortion. Unfortunately, due to an admin error, my case was referred by my GP to the WDHB, though I did not live in their catchment area. The WDHB then denied my request, based on in-house policy, despite the fact that I was within the legal timeframe for an abortion.

With no channel to appeal their decision, I decided to publicise my story to shed light on the horrific state of abortion laws in New Zealand. I hoped that by telling my story through the media, I would help change things, so that others would not have to experience what I went through.

Women should be trusted when they say they cannot carry out a pregnancy for whatever reason. They should not have to convince anyone else that their decision is what’s best for them. Yet, as the current legislation stands, two certifying consultants must approve a woman’s request for a termination, and deem it “justified”. That is, of course, if the woman even makes it to see the certifying consultants. I did not. The WDHB unlawfully refused my request to see a certifying consultant and told me no one could help me. Later on, the specialist who performed abortions for WDHB told me that I would have to be on major antipsychotic medication for him to “maybe consider” my request. Scarily, I would have followed his ‘suggestion’ had I known at the time! I would have taken strong medication that I didn’t need and be stigmatised for taking that medication, just so a stranger would “maybe consider” that a decision I made was right for me.

The law seems designed to strip patients of their dignity.

The decision to seek an abortion was stressful enough, my experience of being denied an abortion only compounded the grief and sadness. I was left with the feeling that what I wanted did not matter, that I did not matter, that an unborn foetus mattered more than me. I struggled with the pregnancy, it was a commitment I was unable to take on, yet no one believed me when I told them. I felt like suicide was the only way for me to be taken seriously. My body felt invaded, violated.

I would rather have died than lived with this invasion.

I was, and still am, outraged by how easy it was for medical professionals to shrug off my request. It’s me who has to deal with the aftermath of this for years to come. As a result of my experience I became engaged with maternal mental health services. I had difficulties bonding with the baby because of how it came to be and every dollar I spent on baby items felt like paying a fine. I grieve every day for the life I used to have.

I used to pride myself on being a citizen of such a progressive country. But this  experience flew in the face of everything I believed about this New Zealand. The hypocrisy of the government criticising other countries’ human-rights abuses, while Kiwi women’s dignity and reproductive autonomy are routinely disregarded by DHBs and “conscientious objectors” who face no repercussions for their interference, is stunning.

I wish that my experience was a one-off, but it wasn’t. I was devastated to learn that another woman also had her abortion request denied by the WDHB, and that the word on the street was that maternal mental health services frequently encountered cases like mine. This is unacceptable, there would be an outrage if any other healthcare users were to face the scrutiny that women seeking abortions experience, yet those who seek abortions are shamed, their decisions overruled by strangers as if they were the expert on the patient’s circumstances—and it’s all legally sanctioned!

The government has asked the Law Commission for a review on abortion laws, it’s time for abortion to be taken out of the Crimes Act and treated as a healthcare issue. It’s time for women’s reproductive rights to be respected. We don’t live in time of The Handmaid’s Tale. Let’s change the law to reflect that!