Time for a catch up on Abortion In The News. Among other things, it’s important to hunt through the coverage to find out what coal face the anti-choicers will be chipping away at next. In this post, we look at:

1. Parental Notification for Under 16s

2. Relative Risks & “Informed Consent”

3. Anthony, We Respectfully Disagree

4. VFL + RTL: A Match Made in Heaven?

1. Parental Notification for Under 16s

Of most interest this past week was an admission in The DomPost that Family First did indeed meet with PM John Key and they discussed parental notification for teenagers under 16 seeking abortion. ALRANZ Tweeted and Facebooked this info back in February, so great to see that confirmed by the PM’s office. This happened after the journalist Andrea Vance interviewed ALRANZ president Dr. Morgan Healey for an article on “Forbidden subjects in New Zealand politics.” Morgan mentioned the Family First-John Key hook-up to Andrea, who followed up. Real journalism, Yay! Here’s what the relevant paragraph says: “John Key’s office says he last met with Family First earlier this year and several issues, including parental notification, were discussed. The prime minister noted the group’s position ‘but no commitments were made’.”

Part of the reason for blogging and Tweeting etc. this confirmation is so the pro-choice community can find it when someone in Parliament introduces legislation on parental notification. We’ll know, and be able to document, that it came directly from Family First – a registered charity. They’ve been agitating on this for years, and made it one of their top priorities for this parliamentary term. FF says this on its “Family Policy Priorities” page.


· Amend the law to protect the unborn children from conception (18,000 abortions per year represents the worst of child abuse)

· Parental notification automatically of teenage pregnancy and abortion except in exceptional circumstances approved by the court

Gosh, they don’t even specify under 16 here. Do they mean up until 19?

OK, try not to glaze over too quickly, but here are some important figures:

ALRANZ wanted some hard numbers on abortion for under-16s, since the ASC and Stats don’t break them down by age. ALRANZ asked and the ASC replied, telling us that in 2010, 276 young women and girls under 16 had abortions. Further broken down, that’s:

12-13 year olds: 8 abortions

14 year olds: 76

15 year olds: 192

This will be useful info when the antis start trotting out the “80 abortions on teenagers a week” (or 60 or 70 or whatever they come up with) as they have done and will do again. In the context of notification for under-16s, those figures are 100% misleading as they include all “teenagers” including 19 year olds.

For the record, the latest stats show that in 2010, there were 3,473 girls and women aged 11-19 years who had abortions.  Which, if you divide by 52 weeks in the year equals about 67 abortions on “teenagers” a week. Compared that with 5 a week for under 16s. Too many to be sure, but if those girls do not want to become mothers, do FF and others really want five coerced pregnancies and subsequent births to unwilling under-16s a week? Surely not.

By the by, the DomPost article ended with a rather misleading statement of the law. It said: “Abortions after 12 weeks must be performed in a “licensed institution”. Stricter guidelines apply for pregnancies after 12 weeks.” Well, OK, but abortions under 12 weeks must be performed in a licensed institutions, too.

A good account of the law is available on abortion.gen.nz where it says this: restricts where abortions may be performed. For pregnancies under 12 weeks these may be carried out in a licensed clinic and for pregnancies over 12 weeks these must be carried out in a licensed hospital. The Act defines the type of licences for premises and the Abortion Supervisory Committee issues the licences.” Or you can wade through the CS&A Act.

2. Relative Risks & Informed Consent

Ken Orr of Right to Life’s latest Official Information Request revealing that “a total of 877 women were admitted to hospital in New Zealand between 2009 and 2011 for the treatment of complications following abortions” appears not to have been picked up by the mainstream media, but he’s mass mailed newspapers with a letter about it and some are publishing it, including the The Waikato Times.

While we’re certainly not suggesting women should avoid having children or continuing wanted pregnancies, the truth is that pregnancy and childbirth are very risky for women’s health. (If you’re pregnant, you might want to avoid reading on from here). What we are advocating is some honesty in this discussion. We know these endless “risks” lists and “complications” figures are cover for things like “informed consent laws” and just general scaremongering about abortion. The truth is that the risks of continuing a pregnancy are much much greater than the risks associated with abortion, as endless studies show.

Indeed, in New Zealand in 2007 the maternal mortality rate was  16.8 per 100,000 maternities – which means that 11 women died – according to a report by the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee. (There have been no deaths from abortion in New Zealand in more than 30 years.) The causes  for the maternal deaths were listed as Amniotic fluid embolism, Postpartum haemorrhage, Pulmonary embolism, Peripartum cardiomyopathy, Preeclampsia, Sepsis, Indirect, Pre-existing medical, Non-obstetric sepsis, Intracranial haemorrhage, Suicide. (Re suicide, though there were no suicides related to maternity in 2007, the report lists four for 2006. This is a very sobering piece of information.)

From the United States, a recent study in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the journal of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, (Raymond, E. G. & Grimes, D. A. “The Comparative Safety of Legal Induced Abortion and Childbirth in the United States.”  Obstetrics & Gynecology. Vol. 119, No. 2, Part 1, February 2012) concludes that the risk of dying from childbirth is 14 times higher than with abortion. What’s more, the safety gap has been getting wider (it used to be only 7 times more dangerous to continue a pregnancy). Despite the fact that there are many more complications associated with pregnancy than there are with abortion, so-called “informed consent” enthusiasts and anti abortion advocates like to jigger with the numbers. As the authors of the study point out, Texas’s mandatory 23-page pamphlet called “A Woman’s Right-to-Know” lists 12 possible complications of medical abortion, 12 with suction curettage abortion and 11 associated with dilation and evacuation.

In contrast, the pamphlet lists 6 potential complications of vaginal delivery and 8 with caesarian section.  “To laypersons who have little understanding of medical risk but can count complications,” the authors write, “these tallies may imply that abortion has more complications than does childbirth.” One problem with a complications contest (aside from it’s not being particularly helpful or honest – we don’t want to scare women either way!) is that it’s impossible to list the number of potential complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth. As one of the authors told ALRANZ in an email exchange, it would depend on how those “complications” were categorized. “Is venous thromboembolism a single complication, or should venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism be counted separately?  Our point is that however the list is made, to suggest that delivery is associated with fewer complications than abortion is medically inaccurate and ethically wrong.” If, as expected, anti-abortion advocates here continue to push for “informed consent” laws for abortion in the current Parliamentary term, we wonder if they’ll want to include all the relevant information, including the risks of pregnancy and childbirth?

3. Anthony, We Respectfully Disagree

Some of us were disappointed at the usually great Anthony Hubbard in The Sunday Star Times on 8 April under the headline “Be thankful for God-free politics” when he wrote this:

It is our secular politics that has stopped the abortion issue going as septic as it has in the States. Our law is tough in theory and liberal in practice. The clause which allows abortion if the woman’s health is “at risk” has come to mean abortion is freely available. A few years ago some feminists in Labour wanted to do something about this obvious absurdity. Wiser heads won and nothing happened. Almost nobody, on either side of politics or of whichever religion, wants to put this pot on the boil again.

Easy for a man to say… He doesn’t have to deal with a law that tells him he’s not to be trusted with decisions about his own reproductive life.

4. VFL + RTL: A Match Made in Heaven?

Finally, elsewhere in the news, The Taranaki Daily News ran a big spread on the (relatively) new president of Voice for Life, Bernard Moran just last week (20 April). It was good to see the paper including other views in the article to ensure readers got some balance. Just kidding, the only “voice” was Moran’s. Interestingly, although Voice For Life usually distances itself from Right to Life and doesn’t get involved in court cases, in the interview, Moran described one judge’s comments in the current RTL v Abortion Supervisory Committee  case as “a big win for us.” By way of background: VFL was formerly known as Spuc (the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child), changing its name in November 2004; RTL was a breakaway from Spuc’s Christchurch branch in the 1990s, and Spuc eventually disowned it. Maybe it will all come full circle and RTL and VFL will get back together after all these years. But who would be president?