Update: As well as having priests read out a letter against a plan to provide abortion care for Southland women, Dunedin’s Catholic Bishop is writing to the Health Minister about it. Remember, we give the church tax breaks. It shouldn’t be using its special status to lobby against health care for women. We thought some of our readers might be interested in this leaflet from the U.S. based group “Catholics for Choice” called (this links to a pdf) The Truth About Catholics and Abortion.
(Also, see 4 August 2012 update at the end of this post)
The Catholic Bishop in Dunedin Colin Campbell has launched an attack on all New Zealanders who support reproductive rights, but in particular on women who may need abortion care, and those who have had abortions. In other words, All Of Us. By using language like “evil” and “culture of death”, the Bishop is accusing us of murder, and in stating that abortion is the greatest human rights issue New Zealand faces, he is accusing us of being the greatest violators of our fellow New Zealanders’ human rights. This is highly offensive and insulting. This is how abortion is stigmatised, this is how women are shamed for having abortions.
The Bishop of Dunedin does not make health policy in New Zealand. We urge those who support reproductive justice to speak out against clerical interference in health care decisions. The proposed Southland service is SIMPLY about ensuring women in Southland seeking abortion care don’t have to travel to Dunedin. It has nothing to do with expanding legal access to abortion, a rise in numbers of abortions, it is simply about ensuring those women who do need care can get it closer to home. It is humane, it is caring, it is good policy for women’s health, indeed for the health of their families. As such, we fully support Southern District Health Board (SDHB).
We also reject claims that the decision has been made in secrecy. The Board has gone above and beyond in listening to anti-choice groups. Health Boards routinely make decisions about providing services, that is their job: Remember, the SDHB must LEGALLY ensure that women who manage to jump through the hoops and get a legal abortion approved under our onerous laws can actually get that abortion. The SDHB is simply doing what it must legally do, and by working to provide a service in Southland, it is doing so in a humane way.
If the Bishop wants abortion banned in Southland, he needs to convince enough politicians to ban abortion in New Zealand. While abortions can be legally approved under our laws, it is outrageous that the Bishop is trying to dictate how a health board provide that service.
We urge our supporters to take action in response to this outrageous assault on all of us who support both a secular health care system and the reproductive rights of all New Zealanders.
1. Get in touch with the Dunedin Bishop. His contact details are here.
2. Write to your local paper, AND to the Otago Daily Times, to the Southland Times:
Southland Times: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the usual rules: 200 words or less is best, include name address and phone.
COMMENT ON THESE STORIES ONLINE:
NZH: Catholic Bishop Opposes Culture of Death
ODT: Catholic Bishop Slams Abortion Clinic Plan
Please add comments below with other suggestions as to how the pro-choice community can counter this assault.
For all of our posts on this issue, click here.
UPDATE: 4 August 2012
Even More Amazing: An anti-choice pediatrician in Southland is holding the SDHB to ransom over abortion.
Abortion is actually part of the culture of life. Where abortion is banned, more women die because they use unsafe abortion care. 47,000 women die a year from unsafe abortions. Abortion saves lives. And let’s not even start on contraception. When the Catholic Church starts advocating for accessible contraception, then maybe, just maybe, it will have a right to join this debate.
Here is a copy of the email I just sent:
It is good to see a church official holding a strong moral standpoint on an issue. This is your job. I am however in complete disagreement with your choice of issue. Here is a list of issues that perhaps you may wish to focus on, if you wish to better the lives of children and young in New Zealand:
lack of access to quality Early Childhood Education
lack of support for parents who are struggling
the ongoing and systematic stigmatisation of anyone on the Domestic Purposes Benefit
I would appreciate it if you refrained from trying to restrict access to women’s clinical health services that are legal and safe.
I like Arna’s msg. Here is what I sent to the Bishop, incorporating some of above material:
Dear Bishop Campbell,
I am not a Roman Catholic, but I am a woman. I support the reproductive rights of my fellow New Zealanders, and in fact I actively campaign for those rights. I am offended by your comments regarding abortion, in which you essentially call women who may need or have had abortions murderers and violators of human rights. I am surprised that while there are so many problems facing New Zealanders that you consider abortion to be the most important issue confronting us. Rather than abortion being part of a “culture of death,” accessible, legal abortion saves hundreds of thousands of lives. This is well-documented. Where abortion is illegal, many many women will die or suffer terrible health consequences. Accessible contraception can save even more lives.
I hope you will consider the hurt you have caused so many women in New Zealand with your comments about abortion.
I think ALRANZ and Southland Pro-Choice might want to enlist the help of any local liberal Christians from other denominations. As well as that, not all Catholics support the anti-abortion movement, from what I’ve been told. There are cleavages between Catholic social justice advocates and the anti-abortionists. Play the religious freedom and faith/state seperation card in this context.
Agreed, Craig. We’d love to reach out to those groups. Do let us know if you have any contacts/ideas.