ALRANZ condemns potential overturning of Roe v Wade in United States

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa is deeply disturbed by the leaked draft opinion of the United States Supreme Court that purports to overturn the constitutional right to abortion. Abortion is a fundamental human right and, if the leak is accurate, the decision will jeopardise millions of Americans’ access to necessary reproductive healthcare.  

 

Despite being profoundly disappointed, ALRANZ is not surprised. ALRANZ spokesperson Ella Shepherd said “women in America have been warning us of this trend for years. This decision would be the culmination of decades of systematic efforts to erode women’s reproductive rights. The decision fails and endangers pregnant people in America”.

 

Striking down Roe v Wade would be a significant injustice falling hardest on those already struggling to access reproductive healthcare, including abortion. Shepherd continued “the overturning of a nearly-50 year old precedent is a stark reminder that women’s rights and reproductive rights more broadly are vulnerable to erosion”.

 

“Even though New Zealand legalised abortion in 2020, we must remain vigilant to ensure the right to abortion is preserved and abortion is accessible in Aotearoa. The United States has demonstrated that public opinion being overwhelming in support of legal abortion is not sufficient to protect the right”.

 

ALRANZ would remind everyone that abortion remains legal in all 50 states until the decision is formally released. For those who wish to show support, ALRANZ recommends donating to an abortion access funds in states such as Texas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi where abortion is already restricted.

 

 

The Long Game

The Long Game

by Terry Bellamak

To see what the world would look like if anti-abortion types had their way, look no farther than the USA.

Like Oklahoma, which just passed a bill making all abortions illegal except to save the life of the mother. The governor is expected to sign it.

Like Tennessee, which is moving forward with a bill that would allow a family member of a rapist to sue the rape survivor for $10,000. If fact, all the rapist’s family members could sue the survivor, and get $10,000 each.

Like Texas, which has banned abortions from 6 weeks on, and has just arrested and charged Lizelle Herrera with murder for ‘illegal abortion’. She is being held on a half million dollar bond.

Anti-abortion types talk a good game about ‘loving them both’, meaning both pregnant person and foetus. I guess charging someone with felony murder is what love looks like to them. Antis have droned on for years about how they don’t want to criminalise people who receive abortion care, just those who provide it. So much for that.

For the past 40 years, Americans believed their constitutionally protected access to abortion was safe, because it was settled law. But the US Supreme Court has the power to laugh at settled law, even at the cost of trashing the rules of precedent.

Here is New Zealand, access to abortion as health care is also settled law. Abortion care is embedded in the health care system, not kept at arm’s length like it is in the USA. The leader of the opposition has ruled out changes to the law if his party makes it into government next year.

But antis play the long game.

That’s why ALRANZ isn’t going anywhere. We will be right here, now and into the future, speaking out about things that need improving as the Ministry of Health implements abortion law reform and establishes systems to provide abortion care. We will be right here defending New Zealanders’ access to abortion should a government hostile to abortion be elected. We will be right here, talking about reproductive rights and breaking down abortion stigma.

The fight for fundamental human rights is never really over. That’s why we’re here. We play the long game too.

Why we need to fight abortion stigma 

Why we need to fight abortion stigma 

by Katie Lavers

Medical science has improved lives. Vaccinations can prevent disease. They have been in New Zealand since the 1860’s, with smallpox vaccines being first in line. In the 1940’s and 50’s more widespread vaccination programmes began.

Likewise, modern abortion care prevents deaths from unsafe abortions. It enables women to live the life they want. A summary line from The Turnaway Study, a longitudinal study, shows this clearly:

Women who receive a wanted abortion are more financially stable, set more ambitious goals, raise children under more stable conditions, and are more likely to have a wanted child later.”

But in cases like these, the problems medical science solves become invisible to the next generation, because ‘success’ is measured by the absence of something bad rather than the presence of some new good. People do not die in droves of measles or Covid, and women can pursue their chosen careers. 

This is how interventions like vaccinations and abortion care become easy pickings for those with an agenda. People who do not want to be vaccinated and, for some reason, also do not want others to be vaccinated, make illogical claims that the vaccines have no effect – because people still get the disease. This ignores the fact they do not die from it.

Likewise, people who do not want abortions and, for some reason, also do not want others to have them, make ill-founded claims that pregnant people’s mental health will suffer if they get an abortion. This ignores data like the Turnaway study, and personal experiences like my own, that demonstrate the opposite.

Unless you are part of the tiny but dubious extreme religious or alt-right subculture who want to see less choice for women, things are getting better. According to the website ‘Our World in Data’, in 1965 worldwide, women had on average, 5 children. Today that has more than halved, and is less than 2.5. This is a great thing, and not just for the planet as a whole. It is better for everyone to have children who are wanted and planned. 

The difference between vaccination and abortion is stigma. 95% of New Zealanders have been vaccinated. 1 in 4 people with a uterus will have an abortion. These percentages show how accepted both medical treatments are.

But few talk about their abortions for fear of backlash, despite the positive, long-term impact it has on their lives. 

Other than the fact I am a breadwinner, I am annoyingly living the cookie-cutter conservative’s dream. Cis-hetero, working, white family of four. And yet, it was an abortion in my twenties that allowed me to pursue my chosen path working in education. Yes, I love children!  

We need to overcome the social stigma associated with talking about our abortions. This will ensure younger generations coming after us will understand how access to abortion care has shaped everyone’s lives for the better. Just like vaccinations. 

Katie Lavers is an ALRANZ member, and a teacher turned freelance writer.

A Testing Time Part 3 – Hormone Pregnancy Tests 

A Testing Time Part 3 – Hormone Pregnancy Tests 

 

by Margaret Sparrow

From 1942 another type of pregnancy test was developed, not using hCG but two other hormones, oestrogen (or a synthetic oestrogen) and progesterone (or a synthetic progestogen). Either taken orally or injected, various combinations of these hormones induce menstruation but only if the woman is not pregnant or possibly if the pregnancy is not well established. There is limited evidence that it was used to induce an abortion.  No bleeding is a positive pregnancy test.

Two brands of Hormone Pregnancy Tests (HPTs) were available in New Zealand – Primodos by Schering from 1966 to 1975 and Amenorone Forte by Roussel from 1968 to 1975. Both were composed of the same hormones found in some contraceptive pills but the progestogen was in a much higher dose. It is not known to what extent these tests were used in NZ. The alternative, used by most doctors at that time, was to send a morning urine sample to the laboratory for one of the hCG tests, 14 days after the missed period.

Because of the reported risk from overseas of congenital malformations associated with the administration of these hormones during early pregnancy, both HPTs were withdrawn by the NZ Department of Health in 1975. Forty-seven years later, on 20 March 2017 the NZ Ministry of Health, responded to renewed concerns locally and in the UK and issued a statement confirming that Primodos had been used in NZ but that no fetal abnormalities had been notified to the NZ Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM). As a result of the publicity 10 historic cases were notified to CARM as possible adverse reactions but with the time lag it would be impossible to prove causation. The Ministry stated it would liaise with the British equivalent of CARM, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for further developments.

The result, silence.

So what was the Primodos story in the UK?

1958                  

Primodos was introduced in Britain and was supplied on prescription for 20 years until 1978.

1967                  

Paediatrician Dr Isabel Gal published the first comprehensive study identifying an association between HPTs and congenital abnormalities. Dr William Inman Principal Medical Officer of the Medicine Control Agency was dismissive of her findings despite the fact that HPTs were introduced at about the same time as Thalidomide which also caused congenital abnormalities.

During the next 8 years Inman conducted his own study and during that time confidentially warned the German manufacturer, Schering, of possible legal consequences, but did not raise the issue with the public as might have been expected. Some commentators suggest that one factor may have been that these were the same hormones that were used in the contraceptive pill and publicity would have created a pill scare.

1975                  

Dr Inman published an interim report and the first public warning was announced regarding Primodos. This was heeded in NZ but not in the UK although a warning appeared on the packet.

1977                  

A second warning to doctors stated  “The association has been confirmed.” Archival documents reveal that at this time the probability of birth defects after taking Primodos was estimated to be 1 in 5. Inman’s evidence was destroyed eliminating its use in future case investigations.

1978                  

Primodos withdrawn in the UK.

The Association for Children Damaged by Hormone Pregnancy Tests (ACDHPT) was formed to advocate for some 800 affected families.

1982                  

ACDHPT, using legal aid, prepared to take a case to court but a causal link was too difficult to prove and the case was too costly to pursue. Inman gave evidence for Schering.

2006                  

Schering was sold to Bayer who then became responsible for any litigation.

2014                  

MHRA published an assessment of historical evidence on Primodos and congenital malformations and found the results inconclusive.

2017                  

An Expert Working Group commissioned by the UK Government concluded there was no association. In the opinion of ACDHPT this was a whitewash and PM Theresa May responded to the clamour by commissioning an independent review, not only of  Primodos but also the use of sodium valproate (a drug for epilepsy) in pregnancy and vaginal mesh.

2020                  

“First Do No Harm” The report of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, chaired by Baroness Cumberlege, concluded that there was an association between Primodos and adverse effects and that Primodos should have been withdrawn in 1967, immediately after the publication of Dr. Gal’s Study. Recommendations were made to improve safety in the future. And so the campaign continues…

For further information see the website of ACDHPT

Dame Margaret Sparrow was a medical doctor, abortion provider, and president of ALRANZ for many years.

Endo Shouldn’t Be Like This

Endo Shouldn’t Be Like This

by Rimu Bhooi

It’s Endometriosis Awareness Month, and I’m sitting in bed, recovering from a concoction of medications in my system – Morphine, Sevredol, Bisacodyl, Ondansetron, Pregabalin, Panadol, Norethisterone, Nortriptyline, Omeprazole, Codeine, and Sertraline. 

I’d like to say that recovering from hospital is a random occurrence, but this is my life these days: a walker to help me make it to the loo; a pill container and a constant supply of pain meds; a microwave in my bedroom for wheat packs; and, hospital visits galore. 

Ever since I was diagnosed with Endometriosis three years ago, I have lived much of my life from bed. I genuinely thought things would get at least a little easier, but I’ve learnt that Endo is a beast unto itself.

The fainting and pelvic pain began when I was about ten. Then came the headaches, dizziness, painful periods, and pain. It took seven years of asking my GPs to help, being confused by how mates could carry on while bleeding, trying to convince the adults around me that I really didn’t feel well and was in a lot of pain. Finally, after I turned 20, I started making some actual headway on getting answers. I had a private gynaecology consult, and a referral was sent to the Waikato Hospital. I was put on a waiting list for surgery. I was hospitalised so many times between the pain worsening and the actual surgery. It began taking over my life, and now I know it’s something I’ll live with forever. 

If you don’t know much about Endo, I’ll explain: it’s a chronic whole-body inflammatory disease. Tissue similar to the lining of the uterus randomly grows in other places, commonly in the pelvis, but it has been found in every organ in the body. This tissue thickens, breaks down and bleeds like normal period tissue, but it’s in the wrong place. It has nowhere to go. This can cause pain with periods, urination, bowel movements, sex and PMS. Endo symptoms are wide-ranging like diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, sub-fertility or infertility, fatigue, recurrent UTIs, abnormal bleeding, and even chronic pain throughout the body.

There is no cure, but the best management appears to come from a mix of medications, supplements, complementary therapies, good nutrition, sleep etc. The only way to diagnose Endo is through laparoscopic surgery. On average, globally, the wait time for diagnosis is seven to ten years, a devastating and tragic statitstic. One in ten people with uteruses have Endo, 120,000 people in Aotearoa alone. Yet very few know about it, and what they do know is mixed with misinformation. I have been told to ‘go on birth control to heal it,’ ‘get a job and that’ll help,’ ‘stick it out, it’s normal,’ and even ‘just get pregnant!’ None of these ‘helpful tips’ is true because there is no cause, no cure, and anyone telling you otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about. It is chronic. It can be removed during excision surgery and still come back. It comes with co-morbidities. 

For me, those co-morbidities are mostly gynaecological. I was recently diagnosed with Adenomyosis, but I also have Hypertonic Pelvic Floor dysfunction, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue and pain. Endo rules my life, and I’m only just coming to grips with the full extent of its effects on my life, study, and work. 

When reflecting on all this, and on just how much time, money, and energy I’ve spent fighting for a diagnosis and then fighting for treatment and pain relief, I’m sad, but mostly I’m just really angry. We deserve better; we deserve support and answers. Endo is debilitating and disabling, but it doesn’t have to be. We need people to listen to our experiences and change the medical system, so that it centres patients and helps us. Instead of, you know, leaving us sobbing on the floor in the foetal position, wondering what we did wrong.