Polish Authoritarians’ Miscalculation

Polish Authoritarians’ Miscalculation

by Terry Bellamak

A little over a week ago, Poland’s governing party reaped the rewards of its shameless stacking of Poland’s highest court with its political adherents. That court, Poland’s constitutional tribunal, ruled that abortions for fatal fetal abnormality were unconstitutional. This decision makes almost all abortions illegal.

Perhaps the ruling party and its fellow authoritarians in the Catholic church, which has exercised undue influence on Polish politics since the fall of the Soviet Union, expected the move would generate inward grumbling but little outward protest in these days of Covid-19. If so, it grossly miscalculated.

Since that day, Poland has experienced non-stop protests by massive crowds, composed mainly of young people. Opinion polls show 59% of the population disagrees with the constitutional court’s decision.

Protesters have stopped traffic, stormed churches, interrupted Catholic masses, and battled police in the streets. Many hold signs calling Poland “Women’s Hell.”

International condemnation has been swift. The Europeans Union, the United Nations and its CEDAW Committee, Amnesty International, and the Center for Reproductive Rights have all denounced the ruling as a violation of the human rights of women and people who can become pregnant.

People in Iceland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Greece, and the UK have offered assistance and solidarity. And that’s just the ones that made the news that I happened to find on a cursory search. People everywhere feel for the people of Poland, especially those who live in countries like Malta, where the laws are even worse.

Even Poland’s first lady, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, while calling women who continued doomed pregnancies “heroines”, expressed discomfort with the ruling. “[S]he questioned whether every single woman was capable of such heroism and expressed doubts whether women must be forced into such heroism at all.”

She has a point. “Heroism” that arises from compulsion is not noble or heroic – it’s oppression.

The situation in Poland bodes ill for the United States, whose right-wing government has also stacked the nation’s highest court with ideologues capable of denying bodily autonomy to half the population.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa stands in solidarity with the people of Poland as they resist this attack on their human rights.

ALRANZ Denounces US Senate Confirmation of Judge Barrett

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa denounces the US Senate’s confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court seat formerly held by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

“This action demonstrates the rank hypocrisy of the once-respected upper chamber of the US Congress. In the last year of President Obama’s term, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to hold confirmation hearings on Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court so close to an election. Now the Republican-controlled Senate has rushed through hasty confirmation of Trump’s nominee in the final weeks before the election. Their actions make a mockery of what was once held to be one of the premier deliberative bodies in the world,” said ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak.

Judge Barrett’s fringe conservative views are expected to lead to the overturning of US Supreme Court precedents around human rights, civil rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, separation of church and state, and control over corporations.

“This is a sad day for the people of the USA. We fear many more people may soon be forced to become parents against their will, or seek abortions outside the health care system at the risk of prosecution. We hope Americans turn out to vote – to mitigate the effects of this ugly, hypocritical confirmation,” said Bellamak.

“At this point, Justice Roberts is presiding over a Supreme Court that may be losing not only its respect and persuasiveness in other jurisdictions, but even its legitimacy in the eyes of Americans.”

New Zealand reformed its abortion laws in March of 2020, decriminalising the procedure and aligning it with other health care.

Refusal to Provide Contraception Stigmatises Users

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa sadly welcomes the results of Family Planning’s survey of contraception users, which shows 5% experience health practitioners obstructing their access to contraception.

“It’s maddening that in 2020 people still have to deal with the judgmental attitudes of some busybodies in lab coats,” said ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak. “Family Planning has done a real service by quantifying the problem of stigmatising contraception.”

The report said some Kiwis whose GPs obstruct access to contraception also made remarks that showed they “clearly disapproved of my choice, and not only offered me no help, but asked me very inappropriate questions, and made me feel disgusting.”

 “I question whether GPs who feel entitled to pass judgment on their patients’ sexual morality when requested to supply safe, legal health care belong in the profession. People go to their GP for health care, not moral instruction,” said Bellamak.

ALRANZ calls on the government to amend the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 to adequately deal with conscientious obstruction.

She went on: “The Abortion Legislation Bill sought to improve the lot of patients with scolds for doctors by requiring them to give their patients details on the closest places to access the care they refused to provide. But the law can’t make them treat their patients decently.

“Such GPs’ actions make no logical or scientific sense. If they also disapprove of abortion, they should be facilitating access to the one thing that is proven to lower the abortion rate.”

New Zealand reformed its abortion laws in March of 2020, decriminalising the procedure and aligning it with other health care.

Understanding Family First New Zealand v Attorney-General

Understanding Family First New Zealand v Attorney-General

by Ella Shepherd

Since 2013, Family First New Zealand (one of the most prominent anti-choice lobby groups in the country) has been battling its deregisteration and loss of charity status with the Charities Board. On Thursday the Court of Appeal released its ruling. The Court held (Gilbert J dissenting) that Family First was a charity, and qualified for registration under the Act.

Family First said that it qualified to be a charity under two limbs: it advanced educational initiatives; and, provided other beneficial services to the community through promoting strong families. In addition, it had to show its other endeavours were all related to these two key purposes. 

Firstly, the Court was persuaded that Family First commissioned research reports that “largely resemble…that of a journal article in the relevant field”. This showed that Family First had a “clear purpose of stimulating a public debate…on important social issues relevant to families”. It therefore met the criteria for being a charity that advanced education. 

Secondly, the Court was bound by the recent Supreme Court decision in Re Greenpeace that held political advocacy groups were to be seen as promoting a public good, and could be eligible for charitable status. As the law has long recognised that stable families are in the public good, Family First qualified under this limb too. 

The final hurdle for Family First was to show that any other activities were merely ancillary to its charitable purpose. This refers to its political lobbying not directly linked to its family-focus, such as its opposition to the End of Life Choice Act. The Court held that Family First’s engagement on issues such as abortion, prostitution, censorship, and anti-smoking was part of its “broader purpose of supporting marriage and family as being foundational to a strong and enduring society”. Just because the activity was political, doesn’t mean that it wasn’t helping Family First’s main goal of family advocacy.

For these reasons, the Court decided it was eligible to be registered as a charity. What does this mean? 

Family First is once again a registered charity and is now tax exempt. This means it has more cash to put up billboards criticising independent choice on social issues. On the bright side, this decision further entrenches the Supreme Court’s position in Greenpeace that political lobbying can provide a public benefit.  This makes it easier for other truly beneficial political groups to become registered charities. 

Finally, the Court gave Family First a warning. Its activities were only in the public good because Family First said it promoted stable families. The Court said this would change if Family First was promoting traditional families instead. This might limit how Family First conducts its lobbying around stable, but non-traditional families, such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt children. Furthermore, advocating for positions that aren’t covered by promoting the public good of strong families (for example, cannabis reform) might be off-limits for Family First. The Court noted that Family First will need to bear that in mind in future. 

Ultimately, the majority opinion took a disappointingly shallow view on what Family First actually does. It ignored that Family First’s lobbying for the ‘public good’ often came at the expense of women, members of the rainbow community, and other minorities. By affirming that Family First operates in the public good the Court gives a veneer of undue credibility to Family First’s activities. 

Ella Shepherd studies law at the University of Auckland.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa AGM

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa AGM

7pm Thursday 6 August 2020

on Zoom

Get your tickets here.

ALRANZ’s 2020 AGM will be held online this year, so that our members from all over the country can participate. Welcome to the next phase of the struggle!
You must be a member to attend the AGM. Please sign up for a ticket – that’s how we know where to send the Zoom link.