ALRANZ Condemns Draconian Texas Anti-abortion Law

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa condemns Texas law SB 8, which prohibits abortion care after a ‘fetal heartbeat’ can be detected, at roughly 6 weeks gestation, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Most pregnant people don’t even realise they are pregnant at that early stage.

“SB 8 is unconstitutional under US law as it now stands because of Roe v Wade, which is still good law in the USA,” said ALRANZ president Terry Bellamak. “By not blocking SB 8 from coming into force, the US Supreme Court has allowed an unconstitutional law to stand. This is way outside the norm.

“In the past, the Supreme Court would not make a decision of this importance without briefs and oral argument. This is so that justice can be administered transparently, and lower courts can apply the resulting legal precedent properly because they understand the court’s reasoning. But this Supreme Court has conducted much of its business on the ‘shadow docket’, outside normal scrutiny. This is an example.”

She went on, “SB 8 is different from previous attempts to ban abortion at the state level because it is enforced not by the state but by ordinary citizens who can sue anyone they allege has broken the law by assisting a person to access abortion care. That can include providing medical care, lending them the money for the procedure, or even just driving them to the clinic. Those accused could be required to pay their accuser up to $10,000.

 “No one knows what happens next, but it’s not looking good. Texas is in uncharted waters.”

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

ALRANZ Congratulates Western Australia on Safe Areas

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa congratulates the people of Western Australia on their state parliament’s establishment of safe access zones for people receiving abortion care. The state’s Public Health Amendment (Safe Access Zones) Bill 2021 will prohibit protesting 150 meters from abortion clinics. Now, every Australian state has a law allowing safe access zones.

The New Zealand Parliament is currently considering a member’s bill to establish safe areas around premises where abortion is provided. The Health Select Committee is due to report back on the bill on 10 September.

ALRANZ President Terry Bellamak said, “This is great news for Australia – harassment and intimidation outside abortion services perpetuates abortion stigma and traumatises people seeking safe, routine, legal health care. Pregnant people everywhere in Australia are now protected from being harassed by anti-abortion busybodies. Pregnant people in Aotearoa do not have the same protection. We need it.

“Louisa Wall’s safe areas bill would protect patients and providers from protest activity 150 meters from places where abortion is provided. But to make it workable, it needs one change – it must be changed to establish safe areas at all providers across the board from the start, just like the law in Western Australia does.

“Currently, the bill requires the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health to collaborate on an Order in Council to establish JUST ONE safe area. Each place where abortion is provided would need to apply separately, one at a time. It’s onerous and unworkable. It would leave far too many people unprotected.

“Over 2400 New Zealanders who signed ALRANZ’s petition asking for this change agree with us.”

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

Petition Calls for Automatic Safe Areas

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa will present a petition to MPs tomorrow 2 June 2021 at 1pm. The petition calls for the Health Select Committee to alter the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill to create safe areas automatically around all abortion services and clinics.

Louisa Wall’s member’s bill sets out a process that was removed from the Abortion Legislation Act 2020 by a Supplementary Order Paper. The process requires an Order in Council on the advice of both the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health to create just one safe area.

“The process in the bill is cumbersome and bureaucratic. It clearly intends safe areas to be created one at a time. It does not set out the application process or the criteria services must meet in order to get a safe area. Almost no other jurisdiction that has established safe areas has such a ridiculous process,” said ALRANZ President Terry Bellamak.

“Safe areas should be established automatically as soon as the bill is assented. Over 2400 people have signed on to the petition, and many organisations have echoed the call for automatic creation of safe areas in their submissions,” she added.

“People need to be able to access safe, routine, legal health care without having to run a gauntlet of bullies and busybodies.

“The select committee has heard the accounts of people accessing abortion services, and how they felt when protesters targeted them. Abortion patients should not be required to face down bullies in order to receive health care. No one else has to.”

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

Still No Self-referral at Timaru Abortion Service

Over a year after the passage of the Abortion Legislation Act 2020 made it illegal to require people to have a doctor’s referral in order to receive abortion care, South Canterbury DHB’s Timaru service still does not allow pregnant people to self-refer.

Timaru’s breach is revealed on the Ministry of Health webpage for South Canterbury. The page says self-referral will be available ‘in future’, but is not available at present.

“It’s astonishing that the Ministry of Health appears to be OK with this. The law is quite clear. Section 13 of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 reads, ‘A qualified health practitioner may not, as a condition of providing abortion services to a woman, require the woman to be referred from a health practitioner.’ And yet that is precisely what appears to be happening in Timaru,” said ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa President Terry Bellamak.

“A year is a long time to allow the South Canterbury DHB to do this wrong. How many people have been delayed or even prevented from accessing abortion care because the Ministry is not enforcing the law?

“This is different from starting up new abortion services for the West Coast or Whanganui, both of which still lack an abortion service at all. This is not a case of starting something new, but rather stopping doing something that is now against the law. How much infrastructure can be needed to stop doing something?

“Yes, the Ministry is busy, but Covid is not a permanent get-out-of-jail-free card.”

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

Parliament is currently considering Louisa Wall’s member’s bill to establish safe areas around abortion services. ALRANZ supports safe areas.

50th Anniversary of ALRANZ’s 1st AGM

Today marks the 50th anniversary of ALRANZ’s first AGM on 17 March 1971.

2020 Senior New Zealander of the Year and former ALRANZ President Dame Margaret Sparrow reflected, “This day calls to mind how much has changed, and how long it took to change it.”

She continued, “This is a day to remember all the reproductive rights activists from the past who contributed so much to the cause of abortion law reform. Some are still alive, but some did not live to see change.”

Current ALRANZ President Terry Bellamak said, “Abortion is legal in New Zealand now. Our next challenge will be to ensure access to abortion and contraception is improved, so that all New Zealanders can control their own fertility and exercise bodily autonomy. As the UN Human Rights Committee has affirmed, abortion is a human right.”

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

Parliament is currently considering Louisa Wall’s member’s bill to establish safe areas around abortion services. ALRANZ Supports safe areas.

ALRANZ Asks DIA Not to Fund Anti-Abortion Centres with COGS

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa has asked the Department of Internal Affairs (“DIA”) to take steps to ensure that anti-abortion ‘counselling’ centres that purport to provide pre- and post-abortion counselling do not receive COGS funding outside the rules for COGS grants.

RNZ reported in 2019 that over the years, more than $300,000 in COGS grants had been paid to 2 anti-abortion activist centres, Pregnancy Counselling Services and Crisis Pregnancy Support.

The report describes how people who attend these centres looking for unbiased counselling are pressured not to receive abortion care.

The published rules for COGS grants state:

COGS does not fund:

  • services that duplicate existing services, unless the request demonstrates there is a good reason for both services to exist

Pre- and post-abortion ‘counselling’ provided by such centres duplicates services that the health system is required to provide under the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977.

In 2020, five Local Distribution Committees (“LDC”) distributed almost $10,000 to Pregnancy Counselling Services and Crisis Pregnancy Support. They are: Aoraki, Auckland, Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, Waikato South, and Wairarapa.

ALRANZ has written to each of these LDCs through the DIA, advising them of the anti-abortion bias of these centres, which may not be apparent from their applications for COGS funding. We call upon these LDCs to follow the COGS rules and not provide them with COGS funds.

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