Watch What They Do

Watch What They Do

by Terry Bellamak

This week in the USA, someone leaked a Supreme Court majority decision that reverses Roe v Wade, the decision that establishes a constitutional right to an abortion. Now Americans are incandescent with outrage at the dumpster fire their democracy has become. When we consider our happy, sensible little country in comparison, Kiwis might be feeling a bit smug.

We shouldn’t.

We legalised abortion only two short years ago. By now the law change has the feel of inevitability that Roe used to have. But it almost didn’t happen.

If Winston Peters had buried the hatchet with National instead of in it, Bill English would have remained Prime Minister. He would not have lifted a finger to advance abortion law reform – he would have moved heaven and earth to prevent it. We would still be lying to certifying consultants, saying that we were mentally disturbed to get their discretionary approval to end unwanted pregnancies.

Who is in power makes a huge difference to fundamental human rights. Every country on this planet is just a few bad politicians away from disaster.

Just ask Poland. It used to have fairly liberal abortion laws, but their unpopular right-wing government instituted a draconian abortion ban that has left doctors afraid to abort dying fetuses that are killing the person carrying them. People have died.

Even the support of large majorities doesn’t help. A large majority of New Zealanders favour abortion rights. The National Council of Women’s Gender Equality Survey found 74% of New Zealanders support the right to choose abortion. But that is no guarantee. Abortion rights are popular in the USA too – 70% say abortion should be between pregnant people and their doctors. 

People in the US thought their right to abortion was secure, but they were wrong. New Zealand must not fall into the same complacency.

You might say we are safe because opposition to abortion is driven by religious extremists in the USA, and we don’t have nearly as many here. 

I would submit religion is not so much the issue as authoritarianism, and we have more of those than we thought, as the occupation of Parliament demonstrated. We also have some former and current MPs who were willing to pander to the occupiers. 

Losing fundamental human rights is the last step in a long series of steps. The early steps barely register – we are halfway to the end before we realise we are going somewhere. 

Maintaining our reproductive freedom requires vigilance in the face of the media and politicians telling you not to be paranoid, those red flags are just decoration.

What would an erosion of abortion rights look like here? No one knows for sure.

It could start with a government hostile to reproductive rights quietly under-resourcing abortion care. Or perhaps encouraging the placement of anti-choice people in the health care system’s upper management, where they could undermine provision in quiet ways, like moving the abortion service to a different building which would require the service to request a new safe area. The service would be unprotected for the 3 – 6 months it would take to create and approve another safe area.

It could move on to nibbling away at the edges of abortion rights, perhaps starting with the least popular or most controversial. Perhaps ending telemedicine abortions. Perhaps reinstating the rule that the second set of medicines must be taken at the service, which requires another trip to the service. 

Always quietly, with as little fanfare as possible so that few people notice. They will always make the change sound reasonable, and promise nothing else will change and abortion rights are safe. Just like in the USA.

This is why we need to pay attention to the political class. When the leader of the opposition, Christopher Luxon, says abortion rights would be safe under a National-led government because deputy leader Nicola Willis is pro-choice – even though he considers abortion tantamount to murder, that’s a red flag. Don’t listen to what they say – watch what they do.

Now that we have abortion law reform, we need to make sure we keep it. 

 

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.

Passage of Safe Areas Amendment Bill at third reading welcomed by ALRANZ

Passage of Safe Areas Amendment Bill at third reading welcomed by ALRANZ

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa welcomes the passing of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill 2020 at its third and final reading today. The Bill passed with overwhelming cross-party support. ALRANZ believes this reflects the view of the majority of New Zealanders who believe women should be able to access healthcare services without being harassed.

ALRANZ would like to thank all those MPs who worked on the Bill, spoke in favour of it, and who voted for it at the third reading. In particular ALRANZ would like to thank Louisa Wall for introducing this Bill and being such a strong advocate for abortion rights in Aotearoa.

ALRANZ President Tracy Morison said “women and pregnant peoples’ bodies are constantly policed, and it is encouraging that this bill rejects this in favour of restoring women’s dignity and privacy when accessing abortion care”.

“This legislation will ensure that people are able to exercise their fundamental right to healthcare and are able to choose whether or not to end a pregnancy. This is the definition of reproductive justice”.

The passage of this bill will also protect healthcare providers from obstruction, intimidation and threats of violence when accessing their place of work.

ALRANZ hopes that the Ministry of Health creates safe areas in a timely fashion to ensure that people seeking abortion healthcare in Aotearoa have unimpeded access to the services they require.  

 

Safe areas second reading a win for abortion care in Aotearoa

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa welcomes the passing of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill 2020 at its second reading this morning. The strong cross-party support for the bill is particularly pleasing, with a 108-12 result in favour of passage.

Whilst ALRANZ supports the creation of safe areas, we acknowledge the Bill in its current form is not perfect. ALRANZ Executive Member Jacqueline Cavanagh said, “the proposed process for the establishment of safe areas is cumbersome and will cause undue delays”.

“ALRANZ intends to advocate for safe area restrictions applying to all premises where abortion healthcare is provided immediately from assent. It is unconscionable for consumers and providers of abortion healthcare to be exposed to potential harm due to unnecessary red tape.” 

ALRANZ would also like to remind the 12 MPs that voted against the second reading of this Bill that they are not voting on whether they support safe and legal abortion. The issue is whether abortion patients and providers should be protected from intimidation and the real threat of violence, not dissimilar from the threats those MPs have seen outside Parliament this week.

We urge these 12 MPs to reconsider their position and vote yes on the Bill in it’s the third reading. The passage of the Bill will demonstrate that Aotearoa is willing to protect consumers and providers of vital healthcare services.

ALRANZ Executive Member Jacqueline Cavanagh

National Party’s new conscience not representative of Aotearoa’s values

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa notes the appointment of Christopher Luxon as new leader for the National Party, and Nicola Willis as deputy leader.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa spokesperson Dr Tracy Morison said “Christopher Luxon’s well-publicised anti-abortion views are not representative of the values of mainstream New Zealanders, who overwhelmingly supported reform”.

Dr Tracy Morison, interim President of ALRANZ

Luxon said on Checkpoint following his appointment that his pro-life stance is not “a big issue” because abortion was decriminalized last year, and his deputy Nicola Willis is pro-choice.

Tracy Morison notes that “most people seeking abortion care in Aotearoa would disagree strongly with Christopher on this point”. Luxon’s refusal to answer whether he thought abortion was murder indicates he understands he is out of step with most New Zealanders.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa wish Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis well, but intend to monitor the extent that views such as his may have on the provision of safe and equitable abortion care in Aotearoa, particularly when considering the upcoming vote on the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Bill.