Below is a selection of pro-choice letters published in the Southland Times in relation to the Southern DHB’s decision to begin  providing abortion services, and in response to the anti-choice opinion pieces and letters that have appeared following this announcement. (See this post for more information about this matter.) Most recent letters appear at the top.

If you’d like to write to the Southland Times, email your letter to: Usual rules apply: 250 words or under (shorter more likely to run usually), and include name, address and phone.

Why do people keep writing in with stories of “I thought about aborting, but I chose life and now look at my wonderful baby”?
Nobody is arguing that you should have aborted your child. Pro-choice advocates aren’t in favour of abortion willy-nilly – they’re in favour of choice. If you choose to have your baby, they support you in that. What’s so hard to understand about that? I guess it suits the anti-abortion crusaders to resort to emotion. They don’t see that trying to force women to carry pregnancies to term is as bad as forcing women to abort (not to mention, a great deal more difficult).
I have a friend who was in a bad situation and found herself pregnant. She chose to abort and I fully support her decision. Carrying a pregnancy to term would have made it that much more stressful for her to deal with the horrible things that were happening in her life at that time.
I have another friend who was undergoing treatment for cancer and found herself pregnant. She chose to risk her own life and refuse further treatment until her baby was born (unfortunately, prematurely and unable to be saved). I fully support her decision as well.
The important point being: Both of these women had a choice, made the choice that felt right to them, and as a friend I support both of them.
And I will fight anyone who tries to take that choice away from them.
K Perwick, Invercargill

That abortion still gets a mention in the Southland news is strange.
It would appear that the Enlightenment and the sexual revolution have not yet made inroads to the deep south or at least The Southland Times.
Why not stick to the old-fashioned journalist creed to uncover wrongdoers in positions of power and consult expert opinions on fixing real problems this community faces and not remote “what if” emotional situations.
There is a lot of trouble headed our way from the big wide world, we need to be informed of it from a local perspective.
Aaron Nicholson, Manapouri
Footnote: People can have differing opinions on what constitutes “real issues”. We will continue to respond to that diversity of views. – Editor

Abortion is a difficult choice for any person to have to make.
Being an extremist on your point of view about abortions will not stop them from happening.
Surely we are heading into a different way of thinking and behaviour instead of being from one extreme to another on our views and beliefs, whether it is religion, sexual orientation, colour of our skin, culture or abortions.
Opening our hearts to love and compassion takes away the old outdated negative extreme opinions and behaviour.
Instead, get back to basics and be part of the community which helps to empower people to feel supported and strong, encourage more well balanced people who can make the right choices.
Because people are struggling for any shred of support and love so they can feel strong and whole. Spark that hope within them.
Wake up and realise that the old extreme viewpoints do not work and that we need to just be honest and active in a new way of thinking and behaving.
Ruth Clark, Invercargill

I find it difficult to come to grips with the constant letters to the editor regarding abortion services at Southland Hospital. I have mixed emotions on this issue.
There are four points for me.
First, it is an individual woman’s right to choose.
Second, it is not the right of those opposed or pro to overtly assert their views on to the other party.
Third, abortion services are legal in New Zealand and any anti groups should target central government if they want a change.
Finally, Southlanders should have a legal service provided locally. For too long specialists have held women, whom they claim to support, to ransom.
This leads into the issue of euthanasia. I support the right of the terminally ill and long-term suffers to end their lives without legal complications for those who aide them. Just as with the abortion services, there will be medical folk who will assist and those who won’t. Again, that is their choice.
Nowhere else in the animal kingdom, would we keep an animal alive for religious reasons. If that were not so, vets would not put animals down. They would wait for God to do the act.
Nobby Clark, Invercargill
(Abridged – Editor)

As a birth-mother (who was drugged so that my child could be kidnapped for adoption) and an adoptee who would have preferred to have been raised by my natural family I am appalled that people are once again pushing the adoption “option” again. Adoption damages everyone that it touches.
If a woman wants to have an abortion that is her choice and hers alone. I am sick of men trying to dictate about abortion issues.
Sue Atkinson

For more than 30 years NZ Jigsaw (previously Jigsaw Inc) has been assisting people to find relatives missing because of adoption.
During this time we have heard so many heart-rending stories about how adoption has affected the people involved.
We believe that someone has claimed that “adoption has changed”. We dispute this because we are still hearing stories of women being coerced, bullied and lied to so that someone else can get their child. The latest ploy is “open adoption”.
Open adoption has no standing in law, therefore is unenforceable, and most times once the adoption papers are signed the mother is denied access to her child.
No to adoption.
Let the women decide for themselves.
Lorraine Hill, Auckland

Once again the adoption/abortion debate is raging and, as usual, it seems to be fuelled by men trying to control a woman’s right to do what she feels is best for her and her body.
It is up to a woman, and a woman alone, to decide whether she wants an abortion.
Adoption is actually a form of ethnic and social cleansing.
Does this not make all the adoption promoters close kin to Hitler?
Stop trying to bully women into submission and let them decide for themselves.
Mar Frances, Bay of Islands

As a client of the Southern District Health Board I would like to express my support for the provision of an abortion service in Invercargill.
Given the complicated way in which women have to get an abortion performed in New Zealand I think it is essential to have a service provided locally, as having to travel simply adds to the woman’s distress.
I think the women concerned know what is best in their own cases and it is totally inappropriate to interfere. Abortion is a legal procedure and opponents of abortion should mind their own business.
They are not even a majority of the population, yet they ruled the roost here back in the 1970s and women often travelled to Australia in order to obtain an abortion.
Do we really want to go back to those days?
If these people are so concerned for the embryo/foetus they should consider that New Zealand has a big problem with abused children and unwanted children have a poorer outcome than wanted ones. Maybe they should reflect on that.
Cheryl Lewis, Dunedin

In Kansas, doctors and pharmacists can withhold cancer treatment from pregnant women if they believe it may harm the foetus.
In Nebraska, a woman’s water broke at 22 weeks and she was told the baby had no chance of survival, but would be crushed by her uterus. She was refused an abortion and endured another eight days of pregnancy, labour and 15 minutes of watching her baby struggle to breathe before dying.
In Poland, a woman with ulcerative colitis was refused treatment for fear of harming the foetus. She miscarried and later died. Another woman’s third pregnancy put her at risk of blindness and she was refused an abortion. She is now a single mother of 3, nearly blind.
In Peru, a 13 year old repeatedly raped, pregnant, jumped off a building to commit suicide. She suffered a severe spinal injury, which doctors refused to treat for fear of harming the foetus. She miscarried and it was too late to fix the damage, leaving her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Some anti-abortionists say it’s okay to do it if the mother’s life is at risk. Some also agree if the pregnancy resulted from rape. But some people say there should be no exceptions, in any case.
And that’s why each woman should be the only one to decide what is right for her. And she should have the full support of her family, society, and the medical profession – no matter what she decides.
K Perwick, Invercargill

Hopefully Southland Hospital has funding for vasectomy procedures and, if so, with a bit of luck, they are doing a brisk trade.
Also hope birth control is being preached in the chursches and mosques.
Maggie Wilkinson, Invercargill

I was shocked at the backward and out-of-touch views of Norman MacLean.
Once again it’s a man – and on this occasion an influential one – standing in judgment over women’s needs with all the sentimentality that goes with it.
He is closed off from the real world of an unwanted pregnancy.
He is alarmist to suggest that abortion services will somehow take us to the “deliberate killing of the elderly and unproductive”.
I applaud Southern District Health Board for its courage in starting an abortion service for women who need to get their lives back on track.
We have alarming levels of child abuse in this country yet Mr MacLean would encourage more children being raised in terribly stressful conditions.
A wanted and loved child is great, and raising that child is the biggest and most important job of all.
Gillian Jones, Auckland

In reply to Lynley Morrison, I should like to point out that abortion is about 10 times safer than childbirth, and it is not true that abortion causes breast cancer.
Margaret Sparrow, Wellington


Why does your part of New Zealand allow anti-choice protesters to intimidate women who come to have an abortion at the Southern District Health Board?
This is a form of harassment that would not be allowed in other areas of women’s health.
The word “harassment” is vital, because it infringes on the legal rights of others.
It is an infringement on the dignity of every woman in this country.
Let these protesters take a more positive approach and adopt unwanted or abused children in New Zealand.
Catherine Spencer

In a prochoice op-ed piece published in the Southland Times on 21 June, Family Planning’s national medical adviser Dr Christine Roke responds to criticism of abortion services at Southland Hospital.

I must object to the emotive language and misleading content in Norman MacLean’s opinion piece headed “Abortions breach ‘do no harm’ ethic”.
He argues that an authorised health service supervised by a statutory body, and carried out by qualified professionals, should be denied in his area to patients who do not share his views. (Those who do would not, of course, request the service).
He impugns the professional integrity of certifying consultants, most of whom also subscribe to the “do no harm” principle.
If this denial of treatment on moral grounds were carried to its logical conclusion, drunken drivers and people with sexually transmitted diseases and many others would also be denied medical treatment.
Mr MacLean applies the term “unborn babies” to foetuses or embryos that are not yet viable as well as those that are, and so demeans his scientific training by comparing like with unlike.
He writes at length belittling mental health grounds for abortion as if they were false or trifling.
He denies the seriousness of mental illness to its sufferers, their families and the health system.
He ignores the real danger to the baby of a woman of fragile mental health if she is forced to bear it unwillingly. Mental suffering is just as real as a spinal or head injury or organ failure.
I acknowledge Mr MacLean’s right to value the fact of human life far beyond its quality, but not his right to misrepresent facts to persuade others to join him in these beliefs and consequently deny others their legal rights.
Karen Peterson Butterworth, Otaki

I am writing in response to this article “Abortions breach ‘do no harm’ ethic”.
Southland should be proud to be offering this service.
I am pro-choice and think women have the right to terminate a pregnancy if they decide.
No-one should make that decision for them, it is their own.
By not allowing the service, women are forced to travel further than maybe is possible or turn to unsafe means.
People need to open their minds and allow love into their hearts for these women who make a brave decision that another life that they could be responsible for is not the best decision.
Kylie Hickey, Rotorua

I write to comment on the letter of Norman MacLean giving his opinion of the advent of an abortion service at Southland Hospital.
The letter refers to the opinions of hospital staff, some of whom may object to these procedures.
The letter fails to refer to the opinions and interests of the people directly concerned, the women seeking abortion.
Southland Hospital should, in my opinion, focus on the needs of those women.
Robert P Lowe, Wellington

What the opponents of the licensing of Southland Hospital to perform abortions seem to have misunderstood is that no additional humans will be harmed by this decision.
Whether you agree with abortions or not, the reality is that Southland women are travelling to Dunedin to undergo the procedure.
The licensing of Southland Hospital will change the location of where Southland women go to get the procedure, but it will not increase the number of Southland women having an abortion.
Hilary Nathan, Invercargill

I am writing in my capacity as President of the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) to respond to a recent article published in The Southland Times headlined “Abortions breach ‘do no harm’ ethic”.
I was deeply dismayed to see a medical professional promulgating medically inaccurate information on abortion.
There is no sound scientific evidence to support claims that abortion could increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer or that it can cause mental health problems.
I respect Dr MacLean’s beliefs and values as a private individual and his right as a doctor to conscientiously object to performing abortions himself.
However, I do take issue with any attempt to spread false medical information at the cost of women’s health and rights.
I applaud Southland DHB for their decision to begin to offer abortion services.
It will hopefully allow women in the region to access abortions earlier and decrease the stress associated with having to travel for the procedure.
I encourage more people to voice their support for the DHB and to stand in solidarity with the one in three women who will have an abortion in their lifetime.
Morgan Healey, Wellington

I don’t live in Southland, but I do live in a region that, like Southland, sends women seeking abortion care to another district rather than providing that service locally.
Because of that, and also because I’m active in the pro-choice organisation ALRANZ, I’ve been following Southern DHB’s attempt to remedy that situation with interest.
It saddens me that those who object to abortion are trying to derail an effort that has nothing to do with expanding abortion access and everything to do with making sure Southland women get better, safer care.
This laudable effort by the Southern DHB won’t affect approval procedures for abortion one whit.
It will simply make life that little bit less stressful for women who need abortions.
The situation anti-abortion activists want to see maintained in Southland reminds me a little of Ireland, where I lived for a few years, and where abortion is banned.
Irish women, too, have to travel for abortion services.
It doesn’t stop them seeking abortions, it just adds to the cost, the strain, the stigma.
Alison McCulloch
Mt Maunganui

In reply to Derrick Hills’ letter (June 11), once again as an anti-abortionist, he presumes it is his right to dictate to a woman what she can do with her own body.
As I stated in my letter, whether you are for or against abortion, it is a legal private medical procedure.
As for the vocation of a doctor or nurse being about valuing and saving a life, their role is to attend to the patient to the best of their ability, not to make moral judgments, otherwise they are in the wrong job.
Oh, and by the way, one can still hold some old-fashioned values, but be modern in your thinking as well. So please excuse me while I put a batch of scones in the oven.
Sonia Green, Gore


I am not normally one to bother entering into debates in this column, but I am finding it increasingly annoying and irritating reading the letters from all the anti-abortion brigade (mainly men, it seems) who are doing their best to make what is already a difficult experience and decision, even harder for the women who use this service.
Until we have walked in the shoes of each woman and understand her situation, who are we to judge her?
To tell her so blindly that she is wrong and your view, and only your view, is the correct one?
Having personally been involved with programmes for children who have come from neglected/abused/disadvantaged backgrounds, I have seen the effects that a lack of parental love and nourishment can cause, and it is heart-wrenching to see.
Can I safely assume that you are all actively engaged in raising and caring for children unwanted, unloved or unable to be cared for by their own parents?
It requires that a lot of strength and courage to acknowledge that in particular situations an abortion may be the best option.
Whatever reason a woman has for having an abortion, we have no right to condemn her or judge her. We should be offering our support and help.
So to the anti-abortion brigade – I respect that that is your opinion, so please respect that others may see it differently.
Sarah Chisnall, Invercargill

On the one hand a cow is artificially inseminated and then the calf is forcibly aborted, so that a farmer can make more money from milk she produces for her calf. On the other hand a human woman finds herself with an unwanted pregnancy and chooses to abort. How can the anti-abortionists even compare the two? One has no choice in any aspect of her life, and a pregnancy is forced on her and then removed from her – all for money. The other does have choices (unless Norman MacLean’s morality police have their way) and can act upon them.
I’d like the anti-abortionists to explain how they propose to force Southland women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term? They don’t want women to have local access to abortion, as if a day-trip to Dunedin will tip the scales (“Well, I was going to have an abortion but it’s such a long drive so it really seems more convenient to carry the pregnancy to term for the rest of the 9 months and then spend a day or two giving birth.”)
A woman in England left her five children motherless last year, because she was desperate to rid herself of an unwanted sixth pregnancy, used a method she read about on the internet, and died.
You will never stop women from aborting unwanted pregnancies. What you can do is support them in whatever choice they know is right for themselves.
I support Southland women’s rights to safe abortion.
K Perwick, Invercargill