ALRANZ today published the following media release about the CEDAW Committee’s criticism of New Zealand’s current abortion laws. Reproductive rights (including access to abortion) are a human right, and they are a human right that the New Zealand government apparently isn’t interested in addressing (like a number of human rights issues at the moment). Let the Minister of Women’s Affairs, the Prime Minister, and your MP know if you do in fact have an “appetite” for reform or repeal of the existing abortion laws.

ALRANZ urges Government to heed UN Committee’s call for abortion reform

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) today welcomed reports that the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Committee has again called on the New Zealand government to review its abortion laws.

The Committee is currently reviewing New Zealand’s seventh periodical report and had asked the government to provide information on steps taken to review the legislation on abortion contained in the Crimes Act of 1961, as recommended by the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC).

When questioned directly by the Committee last week, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, Jo Goodhew, said there was no “appetite” for reform, and that any attempt to change the law would require a bill passed by Parliament. Since abortion is a conscience vote, there would be no guarantee the Government could enact such reform.

ALRANZ President, Dr. Morgan Healey said that while she was heartened by the interest the CEDAW Committee had taken in New Zealand’s antiquated abortion laws, she wasn’t surprised at the government’s response.

“It’s important that pressure from international bodies like CEDAW remains. The Committee has consistently voiced its concern around the ability of women in this country to access a comprehensive suite of sexual and reproductive health services, specifically including abortion,” she said. “But so far, neither National nor Labour governments have shown any interest in addressing those concerns.”

In its submission to the Committee, ALRANZ emphasized exactly the points raised by the CEDAW expert from Switzerland, Patricia Schulz. Schulz argued during the hearing that abortion law reform was required to bring New Zealand “up to speed with the country’s standard of human rights”. In its submission, ALRANZ insisted that the current legal framework for abortion hinders access to the highest standards of health for women.

“In order for New Zealand to fulfill its obligations to CEDAW and ensure women are able to realize their right to health, abortion law reform is a necessity, “ Healey said today.

“The CEDAW Committee and the ASC both recognize this. The excuse of a lack of political appetite to tackle abortion should no longer suffice. The women of this country deserve better from their elective representatives, particularly when 67% of them will never know what it means to be faced with an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy,” she said.