The rally responds to the speaking tour of anti-trans, anti-abortion and anti-contraception UK extremist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, known as Posie Parker. Immigration New Zealand is allowing Keen-Minshull to travel to New Zealand despite her links with white supremacists. ALRANZ strongly condemns Keen-Minshull’s hateful and divisive views. Her extremist rhetoric aims to harm and marginalize individuals, particularly women and gender minorities, and restrict their access to vital reproductive healthcare.
After a strong neo-nazi presence at Keen-Minshulls’ Hobart rally and her anti-trans hate speech, prime minister Chris Hipkins has condemned the use of free speech to incite hatred and violence. ALRANZ spokesperson Fleur Kelsey states “her anti-trans extremist hate speech is not welcome here and does not reflect the views of the majority of New Zealanders” and urges Immigration New Zealand to reconsider and deny Keen-Minshulls’ entry to Aotearoa immediately.
ALRANZ is committed to upholding the rights of queer and trans people to gender affirming and reproductive healthcare which meets their needs. We urge supporters and allies to join in solidarity at this rally if you are able to. Together, we can drown out the voices of hate and bigotry and show support for the marginalized in our communities.
One abortion may be viewed as a reasonable “get out of jail free” card; having more than one abortion is often presented as beyond the pale. A woman might be able to decide she cannot continue with a pregnancy once, but to do so more than once speaks of her irresponsibility, fecklessness and failure to use contraception.
We recently carried out research on women in Scotland who’d had more than one abortion. Our findings highlighted some key barriers faced by women seeking abortions, which fail to be recognised because of commonly-held assumptions. These relate to problems with contraception, intimate partner violence, life aspirations and social or economic disadvantage. And what do these problems have in common? They are all factors over which a woman may have little or no control, and which are compounded by feelings of shame and stigma.
Problems with contraception
Finding the right contraceptive can be difficult for some women; options remain relatively limited, and side effects can be disruptive and offputtingly grim. Plus, contraception does not always work, and the burden of trying to ensure that it does continues to fall disproportionately to women.
What some may find most surprising is that most women in our study were using contraception when they became pregnant – particularly those who had undergone a previous abortion. For most interviewees it was the failure of condoms or the pill that resulted in their most recent pregnancy. Many had tried other “long acting” methods, such as contraceptive implants or intrauterine devices in the past, but had experienced problems. What this suggests is that women are not treating abortion “like contraception”, but are having problems finding a method that suits and works for them and their partner.
The link between intimate partner violence and abortion has long been acknowledged, and abortion clinic staff are trained to look out for signs of an abusive relationship. We found that for many women seeking more than one abortion, experiences of violent or controlling relationships were common and contributed to their decision to end a pregnancy on at least one occasion.
For some, this included partners refusing to use condoms or let the woman use the pill. For others, escalating physical violence led to the termination of a planned pregnancy, or meant that abortion was the only way to break ties with an aggressive or violent man.
Aspirations and disadvantage
Reproductive rights advocates often point out that the power to decide if and when to have a pregnancy is fundamental to gender equality. Women need to be able to decide if and when they want to be pregnant in order to have the kinds of lives that they want.
Issues relating to life aspirations and social or economic disadvantage loomed large in women’s decisions to seek abortion more than once, with many citing not having their own home, still being in full-time education and career or other life ambitions as reasons they did not want to be pregnant. Their experiences suggested that caring commitments, concerns about existing children, and financial instability were also significant factors.
‘Here I am again’
The fact that women may increasingly be trying to obtain abortion medications via the internet has recently received attention. For some women we spoke to, this was the case primarily because they felt so uncomfortable about having to return to their local abortion service, admit that it had happened again and face what they believed would be negative judgement from health professionals. For some who did return to services, this attitude was all too real.
Beyond those who sought options online, many women we spoke to had also experienced significant health problems prior to their pregnancies, including severe anxiety and depression. Their need to prioritise their own health had contributed to their decisions to seek abortion. Unfortunately, feelings of shame arising from the stigma around abortion had in turn had a negative impact on their mental well-being in the short term. For some, this meant they felt unable to talk to friends or family, even when they had been previously supportive, for fear of being judged for making the same “mistake” again.
What this all points to is that there needs to be less focus on how many abortions women have and less judgement of those seeking more than one. Instead we need greater focus on the gender inequalities which result in women bearing the brunt of pregnancy prevention and experiencing violence in intimate relationships.
No woman should be deemed irresponsible, feckless, or a failure for needing more than one abortion. And no woman should see her life aspirations, physical or mental health stymied by pregnancies she does not want or feel able to continue.
The New Zealand anti-abortion movement seems to believe that we’re the fifty-first US state rather than a sovereign country. Otherwise, why would they wholly parrot every cue and soundbyte from their US counterparts?
Now, some might say that this is because the anti-abortion and pro-choice movements are both transnational networks, but in reality, the information flows within our movement are quite dissimilar to theirs. ALRANZ was originally named for the United Kingdom’s Abortion Law Reform Association, just as Voice for Life was originally named SPUC (the Society for Protection of the Unborn Child) after the UK SPUC. However, by the eighties, things had started to diverge from this initial model.
This first became noticeable in 1983. Our American members may remember that at this point, prohibitionist anti-abortionists tried to introduce a “Human Life Amendment” that would have prohibited abortion across the United States, except that the Democrats made substantial gains in the midterm elections and sank the idea. Because SPUC and the anti-abortion newspaper Humanity (sic) had concluded that the US anti-abortion movement was making more headway than the more incrementalist British SPUC, it decided to increasingly use propaganda, rhetoric, tactics, and strategies from the United States. Thus, when the Court of Appeal decided that there was no “BMZEF personhood” clause within the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act after Wall v Livingston, SPUC and anti-abortion National MP Doug Kidd decided to lobby for a “Status of the Unborn Child Bill”, which would have prohibited abortion, except it sank at its first reading.
That wasn’t the end of the story. Influenced by the US anti-abortion movement and the highly Americanised New Zealand fundamentalist Protestant subculture, as well as opposition to homosexual law reform in the mid-eighties, the Pro-Life Action Group, Christians for Life and Operation Rescue formed to picket and trespass within abortion clinic property. Unfortunately, this led to profound tensions within the anti-abortion movement itself, between those who favoured parliamentary lobbying and those who wanted to engage in exhibitionist spectacles in the name of their philosophy and religious conviction. As the only result of Operation Rescue New Zealand’s antics was the reaffirmation of Wall v Livingstone at the Court of Appeal and then at the Privy Council, the legislative conservatives pulled the plug on Operation Rescue and refused to further fund its activities.
Amusingly, there was then another schism within the New Zealand anti-abortion movement as militant Christchurch SPUC, under the leadership of former Operation Rescue Christchurch enthusiast Ken Orr, decided to resurrect the Status of the Unborn Child Bill from the early eighties- again, mirroring the split between the US American Life League and National Right to Life Committee over prohibitionist versus incrementalist anti-abortion tactics. SPUC expelled Christchurch SPUC, which rebranded as Right to Life New Zealand.
Over time, the New Zealand anti-abortion movement fell more and more under the spell of US anti-abortion propaganda, rhetoric, tactics, and strategies. During the Abortion Legislation Act debate, this became quite apparent on Voice for Life’s Facebook page and its continual citation of American political and historical precedents. It was almost as if it had given up trying to adapt them to New Zealand’s very different society, politics and culture, which is much less religious than the United States. This may demonstrate the shallow roots that the “New Zealand” anti-abortion movement actually has within Aotearoa/New Zealand society and culture. Meanwhile, ALRANZ had taken note of a greater range of pro-choice precedents within societies more akin to our own, such as Canada and Australia. And unlike our opponents, we adapted them to our own domestic context, much like our own Australian and Canadian counterparts.
It seems appropriate to end on a reflective note. If one looks at Voice for Life’s Facebook page, one sees VFL President Kate Cormack standing outside a US (Republican) Congressional office. Which says it all, really. But as the late great David Bowie so memorably sang once, This is Not America.
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.
Back in May, when the US Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v Jackson was leaked by persons unknown, the world thought such treachery was unprecedented in US history. It turns out we were wrong.
The Rev Bob Schenck, a former anti-abortion leader turned whistle-blower, disclosed to Chief Justice Roberts (and now to the New York Times) that in 2014 Justice Alito leaked the results of the Burwell v Hobby Lobby decision to Schenck’s agents, whom he called “stealth missionaries.” The leak gave Schenck and other conservative parties with an interest in the decision a head start on their public relations work.
This revelation throws unexpected light on the Dobbs leak. At the time, astute court watchers speculated radical conservatives on the court leaked the decision to lock in Chief Justice Roberts’s yes vote and to prevent his persuading other justices to water it down.
The justice with the most to gain by such a move was Justice Alito himself, who wrote the decision. Given his alleged form in this area, he now appears to be the prime suspect in the May leak.
Both the leak and the Dobbs decision itself have brought the US Supreme Court into unprecedented disrepute. It has reinforced the prevailing perception of the court as a haven for partisan right-wing hackery. Even the lower courts have joined in the criticism, as did Judge Robert CI McBurney of the Superior Court of Fulton County in Georgia, in a pithy footnote to his decision in Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective v State of Georgia:
Despite its frothy language disparaging the views espoused by previous Justices, the magic of Dobbs is not its special insight into historical “facts” or its monopoly on constitutional hermeneutics. It is simply numbers. More Justices today believe that the U.S. Constitution does not protect a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body than did in that same institution 50 years ago. This new majority has provided our nation with a revised (and controlling) interpretation of what the unchanged words of the U.S. Constitution really mean. And until that interpretation changes again, it is the law.
What can you do when an institution that has no effective oversight becomes politicised? And loses not only the appearance of impartiality, but the reality as well?
If Alito is the culprit, he might as well be on a mission to destroy the Roberts court, or even SCOTUS itself. He’s like an arsonist in a house made of straw.