Losing Our Religion

Losing Our Religion

by Craig Young

The Aotearoa/New Zealand anti-abortion movement still doesn’t get it. In the United States, there’s at least some semblance of ersatz pluralism, despite the fact that their movement is overwhelmingly dominated by conservative Catholics and fundamentalist Protestants. There are self-labelled anti-abortion “agnostics and atheists”, pseudofeminists, LGBTQI+ gtroups, scientists, pagans, medical practitioners, ad nauseum. This adds some unconvincing garnishing to the US anti-abortion movement. Some anti-abortion Orthodox Jews and Muslims are also involved in both Britain and the United States.

But in Aotearoa/New Zealand? Their movement is oblivious to the need to look secular in the context of plummeting Christian religious observance. There is only one Maori figure, Hilary Kieft, in Taranaki and no Maori organisations listed in the anti-abortion March for Life’s list of endorsers, which seem to consist entirely of fundamentalist Protestants and conservative Catholics- Couples for Christ, Family Life International NZ, Family First, Right to Life New Zealand, Voice for Life New Zealand, Jesus for NZ, Promise Keepers, John Paul II Centre for Life, NZ Catholic Bishops Conference, (fundamentalist) NZ Christian Network, and the Executive Presbytery of the Assemblies of God. Notice something? Well, for starters, there are no mainline Protestants, no-one from other faith groups, no self-professed atheists or agnostics, no anti-abortion womens groups, and no medical or scientific organisations whatsoever. Proof, if anyone ever needed it, that the New Zealand/Aotearoa anti-abortion movement is almost wholly pakeha and conservative Christian. And they’re certainly not out there to win friends and influence people- Family First’s Bob McCoskrie dislikes progressive Christians, Voice for Life doesn’t even pretend to be politically nonpartisan anymore, and McCoskrie also thinks the anti-abortion movement needs more men.

We should be happy at this outcome. If they carry on this way, they will be unable to deal with either side of Aotearoa/New Zealand politics, with Labour and the Greens already uninclined to listen to them due to their blatant partisan bias and National and ACT trying to distance themselves from an unpopular extremist movement.  The New Conservatives, One Party and Vision New Zealand might make occasional anti-abortion noises, but they’re more obsessed with the anti-vaccination movement than with other fringe opponents of reproductive freedom and LGBTQI issues.

Credibility and Risk

Credibility and Risk

by Terry Bellamak

In the days since the US Supreme Court reversed Roe v Wade, Christopher Luxon has been pressed repeatedly on the future of New Zealand’s two year old abortion law reform under a National government. 

With increasing frustration, he repeats himself only to face more questions. His effort to calm the waters is not working. Let’s consider why.

The leader of the opposition is on record stating his belief that “abortion is tantamount to murder.” He spent the 24 hours after the news about the reversal of Roe releasing successive statements promising not to touch New Zealand’s two year old abortion law, which legalised the procedure in 2020. In the final version he said:

I have been consistent since becoming leader that these laws will not be relitigated or revisited under a future National government, and these health services will remain fully funded.

The first problem with Luxon’s assurance is that much harm can be done to abortion rights without relitigating or revisiting the law. 

A hostile government could decide to require all abortion providers, rather than only those in hospital settings, to follow the Ngā Paerewa Health and Disability Services Standard. Such a move would operate as TRAP (“Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers”) laws did in the US, by making it impossibly onerous or expensive to provide services outside hospital settings. This would reduce the number of providers and disadvantage people living away from the main centres.

Our safe areas law requires the Minister of Health, in consultation with the Minister of Justice, to apply for an Order in Council to create one safe area. A hostile government could just … not, meaning harassing people seeking abortion care would not be against the law. National’s shadow health minister is Dr Shane Reti, and its shadow justice minister is Paul Goldsmith, both of whom voted against the Abortion Legislation Act 2020 at third reading. 

Protection for minors needing abortion care from being forced to inform their parents (which could have deadly consequences for those with abusive parents) is in the Care of Children Act 2004, not the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, which makes it fair game.

See this article for more ways a hostile government can screw around with abortion care.

The second problem with Luxon’s assurance is the forced birth movement’s history of saying whatever they have to in order to get what they want.

Crisis pregnancy centres all over the world use misleading advertising to get pregnant people through the door so they can browbeat them out of seeking abortion care. Forced birth advocates trot out the old myths about abortion causing infertility, breast cancer, and mental illness. Local forced birthers peddle the myth that New Zealand’s abortion law is the most “extreme” in the world, and allows for abortions “right up to birth.” Conservative Supreme Court justices lied to the US Senate in their confirmation hearings, saying they believed Roe was settled law, when they fully intended to reverse it.

It would be foolish to ignore this propensity in others who believe as Luxon does. Luxon may or may not be lying himself, but we must consider the possibility.

This is because of the third problem with Luxon’s assurance: the risk/exposure calculation. 

How much risk a person is willing to take on depends on how much loss a contrary outcome will expose them to. If the possible loss is small, a person may be willing to take on more risk than they would if the possible loss is great. 

What is at stake here? Our fundamental human right to bodily autonomy. Our ability to choose our own futures, to follow our dreams when those dreams do not lead to parenthood. In some cases, our very lives. The stakes are beyond huge. 

The people of Aotearoa have the right to decide how much they are willing to risk on Luxon’s word. 

The tumult in the US demonstrates the frightening truth that once we discover we have been lied to, it’s too late to save ourselves. This could be the US’s lasting legacy – an object lesson in believing people when they tell you who they are. It’s our choice whether or not we follow in American footsteps. 


Watch What They Do

Watch What They Do

by Terry Bellamak

This week in the USA, someone leaked a Supreme Court majority decision that reverses Roe v Wade, the decision that establishes a constitutional right to an abortion. Now Americans are incandescent with outrage at the dumpster fire their democracy has become. When we consider our happy, sensible little country in comparison, Kiwis might be feeling a bit smug.

We shouldn’t.

We legalised abortion only two short years ago. By now the law change has the feel of inevitability that Roe used to have. But it almost didn’t happen.

If Winston Peters had buried the hatchet with National instead of in it, Bill English would have remained Prime Minister. He would not have lifted a finger to advance abortion law reform – he would have moved heaven and earth to prevent it. We would still be lying to certifying consultants, saying that we were mentally disturbed to get their discretionary approval to end unwanted pregnancies.

Who is in power makes a huge difference to fundamental human rights. Every country on this planet is just a few bad politicians away from disaster.

Just ask Poland. It used to have fairly liberal abortion laws, but their unpopular right-wing government instituted a draconian abortion ban that has left doctors afraid to abort dying fetuses that are killing the person carrying them. People have died.

Even the support of large majorities doesn’t help. A large majority of New Zealanders favour abortion rights. The National Council of Women’s Gender Equality Survey found 74% of New Zealanders support the right to choose abortion. But that is no guarantee. Abortion rights are popular in the USA too – 70% say abortion should be between pregnant people and their doctors. 

People in the US thought their right to abortion was secure, but they were wrong. New Zealand must not fall into the same complacency.

You might say we are safe because opposition to abortion is driven by religious extremists in the USA, and we don’t have nearly as many here. 

I would submit religion is not so much the issue as authoritarianism, and we have more of those than we thought, as the occupation of Parliament demonstrated. We also have some former and current MPs who were willing to pander to the occupiers. 

Losing fundamental human rights is the last step in a long series of steps. The early steps barely register – we are halfway to the end before we realise we are going somewhere. 

Maintaining our reproductive freedom requires vigilance in the face of the media and politicians telling you not to be paranoid, those red flags are just decoration.

What would an erosion of abortion rights look like here? No one knows for sure.

It could start with a government hostile to reproductive rights quietly under-resourcing abortion care. Or perhaps encouraging the placement of anti-choice people in the health care system’s upper management, where they could undermine provision in quiet ways, like moving the abortion service to a different building which would require the service to request a new safe area. The service would be unprotected for the 3 – 6 months it would take to create and approve another safe area.

It could move on to nibbling away at the edges of abortion rights, perhaps starting with the least popular or most controversial. Perhaps ending telemedicine abortions. Perhaps reinstating the rule that the second set of medicines must be taken at the service, which requires another trip to the service. 

Always quietly, with as little fanfare as possible so that few people notice. They will always make the change sound reasonable, and promise nothing else will change and abortion rights are safe. Just like in the USA.

This is why we need to pay attention to the political class. When the leader of the opposition, Christopher Luxon, says abortion rights would be safe under a National-led government because deputy leader Nicola Willis is pro-choice – even though he considers abortion tantamount to murder, that’s a red flag. Don’t listen to what they say – watch what they do.

Now that we have abortion law reform, we need to make sure we keep it. 


Pro-choice Motherhood

Pro-choice Motherhood

by Julie Fairey

When I first contemplated becoming a mother I worried. I worried about all sorts of things; would I be any good at it, would I hate it, would I be able to get pregnant at all. And I worried that it would change my attitude to abortion.

You see my journey to supporting the right to abortion, that essential medical care that needs to be available to anyone with a uterus, was a bit fraught. I had gone to a Catholic school where my classmates wore the little feet badges on their lapels. It wasn’t until I was about 16 that I learned anti-abortion was not a universally held view. I evolved my position quite slowly from that shocking first time overhearing some other girls talking about abortion as if it wasn’t a Big Bad Thing. By the time I was in my late twenties, looking to become pregnant myself, I had gone through “well I support it but only up to a certain point” to “I guess I support it for others but I could never do that” to “Ok this is a required medical procedure that anyone who needs it should be able to access”.

But the nagging sense from those early years remained, based on being told I’d feel differently once I had children of my own. So I worried, that the experience of pregnancy, childbirth and become a mother would unmoor me from my firmly held pro-choice views.

I could not have been more wrong.

I’ve been pregnant four times. The first ended in an early miscarriage; not physically traumatic luckily for me. When I told a colleague about it they remarked jovially that was just a missed period, and while that was a heartless way to put it, they were correct that what I miscarried did not look or feel to me like a baby at all.

My three subsequent pregnancies have resulted in three live births, three children I parent today as I write this (from Covid isolation!)

And each of those experiences, in particular the pregnancies, have made me more and more pro-choice. All three included bad morning sickness (not just in the morning) and loss of weight in the first trimester. Fair to say I am not one of those people who blooms in pregnancy, even in the second and third trimesters. I find it a great trial; one I’m prepared to undertake because of the likely outcome, but something no one should have to do unless they choose to.

And my final pregnancy produced a particular challenge that reinforced my views, as I went into early labour at 30 weeks (that’s at the three quarters mark for those who don’t think in gestational timeframes). While the outcome was positive for both of us, there was several months of hospital time for my child, which meant a lot of hospital time for me, and the first year was filled with beeping alarms and various tests. I was happy to do all of this because I chose it. I could not imagine going through all of that when I didn’t want to.

If I get pregnant again, I will need an abortion. My last experience, at 38, was much harder than the previous ones, even putting aside the early end. I’m just too old to do it again; others won’t be at this age but for me, for my body, I know that I am. So again, my experience becoming and being a mother, adding to my family, has strengthened my conviction that abortion is absolutely necessary, at the choice of the pregnant person.

Becoming a mother wasn’t the threat to my pro-choice views that I thought it might be. Instead I’ve been a mother speaking up for choice, in case others shared the same illusion I used to that motherhood and supporting abortion rights were incompatible.

Being a parent should be a choice you can make freely and joyfully, not an inevitability you begrudgingly have to accept. Long may we continue towards making that a reality for all.

This blog is part of the #40DaysForFacts campaign. Follow on social media. @alranztweets / https://www.facebook.com/ALRANZ

Vote Choice: ACT’s Jamie Whyte – a ‘Narrow’ Ally?

voteForChoice_Page_3This 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:

  • Jamie_Whyte_ScreengrabSupports 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.