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: Wednesday, 25 July 2018, time still TBD

**UPDATE** 19/7/2018

We have confirmation the Booties will go down on Wednesday, 25 July 2018. We are waiting to hear from the Speaker’s Office whether we will get a permit to hold a counter protest rally. We will be there even if we don’t.

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.

**UPDATE** 12/6/2018

The Booties organisers have extended the deadline for bootie submissions to 30 June. This tells us their event will likely take place in late July. We will keep you posted about the date.

We have heard from many friends and supporters with fantastic ideas about how to counter protest this event. Different groups are coming together with different themes. There will be humour, and feeling, and Handmaids. ALRANZ will have some Handmaids costumes for volunteers to wear, but if you’re clever with a needle, make your own, so that you’re sure to have one! Check YouTube for DIY videos.

We are still making plans, so watch this space!

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!

Incompatible Perspectives

Incompatible Perspectives

by Terry Bellamak

When considering people requesting abortion care, I have always thought that, even as the women knew they were lying to the certifying consultants, the certifying consultants also knew they were lying and helpfully pretended to believe them. But that might not actually be the case.

I was at the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Conference in Nelson, presenting a talk on abortion law.

At one point I referred to the unexceptionable fact that women have told me how they had to lie to certifying consultants to get abortion care.

This was met with incredulity by some certifying consultants, who could not believe their patients were lying to them, even in face of the patients’ obvious motivation to do so, and the statistical unlikelihood of 98% of pregnant people who need abortions suffering from mental illness in the usual sense of the term.

Self-delusion or doublethink?

The result of this disconnect is an interaction that looks one way from the perspective of the certifying consultant, and completely different from the perspective of the person who needs an abortion.

Certifying consultants approach their task with certain definitions in mind, like the WHO standard for mental health, which is:

Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

They ask the patient questions, prompting responses aimed at assessing the validity of her reasons for needing abortion care. A certifying consultant’s sole reason for being is to decide whether the patient meets the legal grounds under the Crimes Act. Once the patient has said enough to satisfy that standard, the certifying consultant can approve the abortion with a clear conscience, knowing the law has been satisfied, the patient has been satisfied (she gets her abortion), all the boxes are ticked, and they have done their job in accordance with the abortion bureaucracy.

From the perspective of a person who needs an abortion, however, she has to lie. She does not know the details of the standard the certifying consultant is using. She knows what mental illness is, and she knows she is not mentally ill. The certifying consultant asks her leading questions that hint at what the certifying consultant wants to hear. She says what they want to hear, and gets her abortion.

Sometimes, a patient struggles with the lies she has to tell, and tries to say, no, I made this decision because it is the best decision for my life right now, not because I am mentally ill. But under the sensitive, prompting questions of the certifying consultant, she caves in, as she must. And it feels like a betrayal of herself.

She believes the certifying consultant is trying to help her get the abortion she needs in the only way it can be done here in New Zealand. That’s sort of true: the certifying consultants is trying to get to the place where they can say, yes, she meets the grounds. Both respect the law, and struggle mightily to satisfy its demands.

The law itself is not respectable. It demands women sacrifice a tiny sliver of their integrity to get the health care they need. They do it willingly. They would do much more, as history shows. The alternative is childbirth.

The certifying consultants have made a sacrifice too, but I don’t think some of them realise it. They have unwittingly done their patients harm by forcing them to testify falsely against themselves.

40 Days of Gratitude

40 Days of Gratitude

by Terry Bellamak

“40 Days for Life” is the time of year when anti-abortion folks try to make life harder for people who need abortion care, and for people who provide it. This usually takes the form of increased harassment of people entering and leaving abortion services, be they clients or medical staff.

Most years, ALRANZ counters the negativity as best it can. This year, ALRANZ has received even more support than we have in previous years, both from our supporters, and from the greater community.

Like last year, ALRANZ marked the occasion by taking up the #40daysfortruth project. This is the project where we post and tweet actual facts about abortion in New Zealand and around the world, with citations, to counter the falsehoods often bandied about by anti-abortion folks.

This year, we have had lots more community engagement with these posts. They have started conversations in many quarters, and we are delighted about that.

Last year, as in previous years, ALRANZ set up a funding page to give treats to some of the larger providers of abortion care in the main centres. We sent them flowers, and sometimes chocolates and other treats to thank them for the excellent care they provide their patients, in the face of so much bogus criticism.

This year, our funding page got such a huge response, with over $1000 donated, that we were able to send flowers, or flowers and treats, to every abortion service in New Zealand that we knew about. We are very grateful to our supporters, who gave generously, and even volunteered to deliver the treats to some of the 19 services. The professionals who provide abortion care are unjustly vilified in some quarters, so it was wonderful to be able to do something nice for them.

Last Sunday in Wellington, an ALRANZ supporter organised a counter protest to show our support for those who provide abortion care and those who need it. Around 70 people came, chanted, displayed signs, and waved to all the many cars that honked in support. It was a pleasant ending to what was supposed to be the season of strife, which turned out so differently.

I can only conclude that as people are paying more attention to abortion now that law reform is on the new government’s radar, they are following through with increased support for law reform. For that too, I am grateful.