To everyone who says that we effectively have abortion on demand, that the current laws are working fine so why fix something that isn’t broken, and that we abortion rights campaigners are just being overly dramatic when we repeatedly warn that, with the law as it currently stands, we are at risk of having our reproductive rights gradually eroded as is happening in the US, I present you with this:

Abortions in Waikato going to contractor, NZ Herald 29/11/11

Because some staff object to assisting with abortions, the Waikato DHB has had to hire a contractor to provide surgical abortions at three Waikato hospitals, and residents who wish to have a medical abortion instead will now be forced to travel to Auckland.

When reading this story, I was immediately struck by a couple of questions:

  1. How much space can it take to provide medical abortions? (For those unfamiliar with medical abortion, it involves taking a combination of two medications to induce a miscarriage. See ALRANZ’s fact sheet about medical abortions). And surely they can find someone who doesn’t find the whole concept totally yicky to administer this medication.
  2. Why is Family Planning not licensed to provide medical abortions? As the story points out, Family Planning in Waikato actually applied for a license to provide medical abortions (see ALRANZ’s blog post from earlier this year for more information about this). So Waikato DHB apparently preferred for all abortions, including medical ones, to be performed at their hospitals, thus rejecting Family Planning’s bid to provide medical abortions at their clinics, but are now saying their hospitals won’t be offering this service for the moment.
  3. Why on earth are people who are so uncomfortable with performing or assisting with certain medical procedures entering the health care fields much less working in a public hospital where a full range of procedures and services are offered. Perhaps there are better areas of health care such people could enter. Ones where their sense of morality won’t be so offended that the result is effectively a partial barrier to people accessing services they have a right to.

It may seem like a minor thing; after all, surgical abortions are still being provided at the Waikato hospitals in question, albeit by a contractor, and medical abortions around the country still only account for a relatively small percentage of total abortions, so the number of people who will have to travel to Auckland is likely to be small. To this I would give you two words: slippery slope. Just ask them in some parts of the US.