by Terry Bellamak
Another International Women’s Day comes and goes, and New Zealand women still don’t have the freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to receive abortion care. In the land of Kate Sheppard and Suffrage 1893, women are still not treated as adults capable of making medical decisions for themselves.
ALRANZ has fought for reproductive rights for almost 50 years. We will continue the fight until women and pregnant people are treated with dignity and equality. Our job just got a bit easier, though.
On Wednesday we launched Abort the Stigma, a Facebook page where people can tell their stories about abortion.
It might seem like a small thing, just one more drop in an ocean of women shaping their own lives in the face of patriarchal shame and judgment. But these firsthand stories make it harder for the anti-abortion crowd to pretend abortion care is something that just ‘happens’ to women rather than something they seek out for their own good reasons Every new story told, every new voice that speaks up, adds to the evidence that refutes the anti-abortion rhetoric that abortion care only has negative consequences.
Common sense and experience tell us that’s not true. 95% of people do not regret their abortions.
What is regrettable is the fact we still need the approval of two random certifying consultants to get health care; we still face delays of 25 days on average from referral to procedure; we cannot access early medical abortions according to international best practice.
These stories of women who did the best they could for themselves and their families, and are satisfied with the outcome, show the vital importance of people choosing their own lives.
The government says law reform is on its way, change that will see abortion care treated as the health care it is. It can’t come a moment too soon. Let’s hope next year’s International Women’s Day fulfils the promise of full sovereignty over our own bodies.
ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa announced a new effort to combat abortion stigma by creating a forum for people to share stories about their abortions anonymously.
The stories will appear on a new Facebook page, Abort The Stigma, and on Instagram at @abortthestigma.
“Abortion stigma is the projection of negative attributes on someone who has received abortion care, as an excuse for treating them badly,” said ALRANZ National president Terry Bellamak.
“It’s how anti-abortion groups justify targeting people for harassment outside abortion services when they are trying to access health care.
“One in four people who can get pregnant in New Zealand receive abortion care. Pretty much everyone knows someone who has accessed care. But people are very careful about whom they tell about their abortions. That is abortion stigma, too. If someone thinks they don’t know anyone who has received abortion care, they should ask themselves why someone might think they were not a safe person to tell.
“The page is a kind of homage to In Her Shoes – Women of the Eighth. It works the same way.”
In New Zealand, abortion is still in the Crimes Act.
The Minister 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 care. 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 receive abortion care on request.
Providing abortion care is not for the faint of heart.
Every day, abortion providers work to ensure people are not forced to carry unwanted pregnancies, delivering abortion care with empathy and compassion. For this, anti-abortion activists target them for harassment, along with the people they care for.
Every year, during the 40 days before Easter it gets much worse.
So every year, we remind abortion providers how much we value their courage and commitment by standing with them, thanking them, and showing them some appreciation in the form of treats that everybody likes – like flowers and candy. Last year, thanks to the generosity of wonderful Kiwis like you, we were able to give treats to every service in New Zealand.
Let’s do it again this year!
We have started a Givealittle page so that you can contribute to making abortion providers feel valued and supported, as they deserve.
The money will be used to buy flowers, candy, and other treats for as many abortion providers as we can, starting with the larger services.
Thanks for your support!
Your friends at ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa