This week, the Vote Choice series looks at Dr Jamie Whyte, the leader of the ACT party, and his views on abortion and decriminalisation. A google search of Whyte and abortion provides little in the way of his opinion but does provide an interesting array of articles to read, many from his lecturing days in the UK and/or other academic responses to some of his philosophical arguments. So it was back again to Family First’s Value Your Vote page for information on where Whyte stands in relation to abortion law reform (thanking them is becoming a bit too common for comfort, just saying).
It has always been ALRANZ’s understanding that despite the libertarian positioning of the party that it was generally anti-choice. Possibly this perception has been clouded by Andy Moore’s former role as an office-holder of ACT on Campus. However, Whyte seems to be setting a different tone in relation to abortion law reform.
Whyte received sad faces from Family First, in the following areas:
- Supports decriminalization of abortion with note that this should be “subject to a restriction regarding the age of the foetus”.
- Opposes “informed consent” for abortion (which is usually anti code for telling pregnant people medically unverified lies – e.g. an abortion could increase the risk of breast cancer – something that has no basis in science!)
- Undecided on the right to life of the unborn child, which he caveats with the comment: Which unborn child are you talking about? A 6 week old foetus or a 37 week old foetus? The difference is important.
ALRANZ would also agree. There is a difference between a fully viable baby at 37 weeks and one still in an embryonic state at 6 weeks. Although it is always good to point out the obvious that no doctor would perform a ‘termination’ at 37 weeks so this is a bit of a false dichotomy; but one that might explain his comment of only supporting decriminalisation in relation to restrictions on the age of the fetus. He may sympathise with the Greens’ policy, which would only allow abortion on request up to 20 weeks?
Where we disagree (and we’d be interested to know his rationale for this) is on parental notification. He would support attempts to change the law to require parental notification for abortions where the pregnant person is under 17.
All in all Jamie Whyte, and perhaps even the party itself, would appear to be a potential ally for a very narrowly focused abortion law reform effort. Out of those ACT candidates that responded to Family First (5 out of 12, including Whyte), three support law reform (Whyte, John Thompson and Stephen Berry), while David Seymour is undecided and Ian Cummings oppose it.
However, taking a wider reproductive justice view, and given ACT’s opposition to free healthcare — its policy (pdf) says “ACT does not support free healthcare as this results in the provision of a service which is not valued” — as well as its “one country, one law” attacks on Māori, any alliance over decriminalisation would likely break down over treatment of marginalised groups and access to abortion services. It’s no use decriminalising abortion if access to services, as well as to health-care in general (not to mention income equality) — are reduced through other means.
Seymour’s comment was “The current law is unclear and should be clarified so that the law is in line with actual practice and so that all cases are treated equally. Such a law would be a conscience vote and I would be guided by my electorate if elected. There seems to be some potential there.
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This is the first election that may bring Colin Craig into Parliament, so we took a look at Bob McCoskrie’s “Forum on the Family 2014” interview with him.
Firstly, on parental notification (from 21.19 in this YouTube video)
CC: Oh, absolutely. Hey, I’d change it if I could, absolutely – I’d propose it. I think it’s long overdue that we recognize that an exception to what is otherwise a generally accepted principle, which is that parents or guardians are consulted around the medical issues of children, simply shouldn’t be made on this issue – it shouldn’t be made on any issue. When did we think that separating children from their parents was the smart way to go? It’s not, it’s another breakdown of what I believe is the basic institution of society, which is the family. You start getting the law in there and prying apart those relationships, and isolating a child in a particular circumstance, which could be a difficult one – it’s just not the right way to go.
Far from “prying apart those relationships”, the current law (explained here) is designed to protect those who don’t feel able to tell their parents/guardians. Nothing prevents young pregnant people from informing and/or involving their parents if they feel able to. Good child-parent relationships cannot be legislated into reality, so vulnerable pregnant teens must be protected from having any decision forced on them.
Next, Craig goes on to explain why he supports legislation giving “an unborn child the right to life”, even though he accepts that such legislation is unlikely to ever be passed in New Zealand:
BM: In the Value Your Vote, in 2011, I think you got in a bit of trouble because one of the questions we asked was “Does the unborn child have a right to life?”. And…
CC: Yeah, was that the exact wording? I think it was “Would you support legislation? .. I think was –
BM: Giving an unborn child the right to life-
CC: Yeah, yeah.
BM: And you put undecided.
CC: Yeah, I did.
BM: And, in this year’s one, that we’re about to release, you’ve put ‘Yes, you would support it’.
BM: What’s changed?
CC: Well, I think the understanding of the question’s changed, because the first time that that came out I was looking around the world going “Okay, where have they got legislation along these lines?” and Poland, which is a 97% Catholic country, was trying to get legislation through to that effect, and they were having a lot of difficulties around the legalities of it. So I looked at it very much strictly on the wording, and not so much on the principle. Now I’m looking at it in terms of the principle and saying well, I absolutely support an unborn child’s right to life, and I always have – that hasn’t changed, but I think the way I’m looking at the question has changed, in that I’m seeing it not so much as a “Can you practically imagine that we could get legislation in this country to that effect?” It’s more a principled answer to say this is where I do stand.
And finally, he comments on the Greens’ proposal to decriminalise abortion:
CC: Well, look I was already, I mean I’ve been interviewed on TV about that, and I just said “Look, I think that’s a crazy, extreme suggestion.” I think that we already have too many abortions and I think that anyone in their right mind would hopefully have the ideal that we should reduce those. And hopefully get rid of them altogether, although I think that’s a Utopian view. I don’t think we could achieve that, but we certainly can achieve a dramatic reduction. And that’s a life saved every time and I… for me that’s huge and I think that those – and I’m imagining that some people here (gesturing to audience) probably work in that field, and I’ve always thought of it like this: If we could reduce abortions by a thousand a year, in twenty years down the track, you put every one of those kids in a room, you’d have 20,000 people there who would otherwise have died. (scattered applause) And I think when you think like that, it makes it really clear where we should be.
BM: What about in terms of pre-screening? For gender selection, for Down Syndrome? For cleft palate, like in the UK?
CC: Oh, no, no, look I’m not in favour of that because I think all you’re doing is then giving people more reasons to go there. I mean, and I know in some countries they, you know, it’s all male-female and males are more important so let’s ditch the females – I’m not sure there are any countries where they do it the other way around yet. Although if feminism keeps going, you never know, Bob. (laughter from audience) You never know. But no, look, I think it’s just such a dangerous place to go. I think we do want to know if the mother’s health is going to be compromised. That for me is what pre-screening should be about. It should be about “Is this healthy? Are we all going well and we’re on track?” Because there are times when medical intervention is necessary. And I think that’s what medicine should be focussed on, is preserving life, both mother and child.
So to sum up:
• he wants mandatory parental notification laws
• he supports the principle of right to life but doesn’t think it’s practical
• he thinks that letting the pregnant person decide for themselves is crazy and extreme
• he doesn’t support any pre-screening abortion for any reason unless there is a health risk to the pregnant person, because it gives people “more reasons to go there” (ie, ignorance is bliss!)
• he’s a little worried about the feminist agenda
So there you have it. Colin Craig, leader of the Conservative Party, a true conservative, cares so deeply about families that he neglects to consider individuals.
Many thanks to Kerri for watching, listening and transcribing CC.
Read all the entries in our Vote Choice series.
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