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May 4, 2009 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Health or Justice?

The conservative liberalism of New Zealand’s abortion law

abortion is a touchy subject that continues to divide opinion and inspire heated debate in New Zealand. Which is the reason why we don’t talk about it much. Since the passing of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (CSA) Act 1977, the issue of abortion has been left largely untouched by successive governments, despite calls from both sides of the debate for reform.

Abortion law in New Zealand is not straightforward. To summarise briefly, the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 was adopted to implement the recommendations of a report by the Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion. The CSA Act 1977, and relevant amendments made to the Crimes Act 1961 constitute New Zealand’s abortion law, which is administered by the Ministry of Justice.

By law, abortion in New Zealand is a criminal offence. However, the law provides that in a number of exceptional circumstances, an abortion may be authorised by two certifying consultants. 98 to 99 percent of abortions in New Zealand under section 187A of the Crimes Act are authorised on the grounds that “the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger…to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl.”

The Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) was established by the CSA Act 1977 and its powers and functions of the ASC are set out in section 14 of the Act. It is the responsibility of the ASC to “keep under review all the provisions of the abortion law, and the operation and effect of those provisions in practice.”

Law of good faith

In June last year, Justice Miller delivered a so-called ‘landmark’ judgement in a High Court case reviewing the functions of the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) under the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (CSA) Act 1977. Right to Life, a Christchurch-based organisation advocating for the rights of the unborn child, applied for the judicial review. Right to Life New Zealand’s spokesperson Ken Orr said that the organisation called for the review because they, and others in the community, were “concerned” that New Zealand’s abortion law “was not being upheld.”

Mr Orr says there was concern that “The ASC [was] not fulfilling [its] statutory duties as laid down by CSA Act.” He said that as a consequence “the rights of unborn children in New Zealand were being violated” and that the “health and welfare of women was not being protected.”

Justice Miller concluded that the abortion law, as it currently stands, does not recognise the right to life of an unborn child. Despite this, it was found that Parliament recognises through the abortion laws that “the unborn child has a claim on the conscience of the community, and not merely that of the mother.” This is recognised through law in that “abortions may be authorised by the certifying consultants only where they believe, in good faith, that continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the mother’s life or health.” Justice Miller concluded that “there is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants.” He adds that the ASC itself has admitted that the abortion laws are being more liberally interpreted than Parliament intended. Furthermore, Justice Miller concludes that the ASC has “misinterpreted its functions and powers under the abortion law.” The ASC, Justice Miller stated, has incorrectly reasoned that the judgement in Wall vs Livingston means it “may not review or scrutinise the decisions of certifying consultants.”

Justice Miller’s judgement did not make any clear recommendations for the Government to act upon with regard to abortion law. President of the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) Dr Margaret Sparrow says that no significant changes to the application of the law have occurred following Justice Miller’s conclusions. “As a result of Justice Miller’s comments the Abortion Supervisory Committee has reminded certifying consultants of their legal obligations but as they have been interpreting the law in good faith there has been no significant change,” she says.

The ASC appealed the decision of Justice Miller to the Court of Appeal, and Right to Life subsequently cross-appealed. The appeal is to be heard in the next few weeks.

Shh… don’t say a word

The conclusions made by Justice Miller brought to the surface—albeit briefly—lingering tensions over the state of the abortion laws that currently exist in this country. However, a reluctance on the part of politicians to put abortion back on the legislative agenda has stalled the chance for any open and frank public debate taking place.

Abortion law—and the prospect for reform—made the headlines of several daily newspapers in the days following the release of Justice Miller’s judgement. Some of the media coverage speculated that the conclusions drawn in the judgement could have serious implications for the application of New Zealand’s abortion laws and consequently, womens’ access to abortions. The pro-life lobby saw the judgement as another victory towards the legal recognition of the rights of the unborn child.

After a week or so of polarised debate in print, the issue of abortion, yet again, fell off the radar. In election year, no politician in either major party wanted to touch the issue of abortion with a six-foot barge pole. Whatever your personal views are on the subject of abortion, the conclusions drawn by Justice Miller are significant to the ongoing debate about abortion in New Zealand.

Liberal interpretations

There is consensus amongst many involved in the women’s health sector that some reform of the abortion law needs to occur. However, the reluctance of the general public and the government to engage in an open debate about abortion is a barrier to undertaking necessary reforms.

“The law as it currently stands, it is actually a conservative law that is being liberally interpreted,” says Fiona Robertson, whose involvement in women’s health and the abortion debate dates back to the 1977 Royal Commission

“It is quite a conservative law because it defines the grounds for abortion,” Ms Roberston says.

Lynda Williams, of the Auckland Women’s Health Council, says that the CSA Act “desparately needs bringing into the 21st century.”

“It’s a hugely outdated Act, but no government has yet been prepared to go there,” she says.

“The fear is that when you open that debate again and all those that are currently opposed to abortion do their things and get involved, the fear is that… we will end up with less of a service than we’ve got now, and they’ll toughen it up.”

Ms Williams says that the ASC has made several recommendations over the years stating that the Act needs to be revised, and that providing abortion services needs to be placed within the context of providing other women’s health services.

“That’s what needs to happen, but the risk is that we’ll lose even the bit that we’ve got now.”

Ms Roberston says that until women are prevented from getting abortions, the abortion law should be left as it currently stands. “As long as women are getting terminations, it kind of doesn’t matter [if they are] legal, or however they do it, but provided they can get their terminations I think you tolerate what you’ve got.”

Under the current law, abortion is considered a criminal matter, not a matter of women’s health.

“Abortion is not a crime. It is a health matter. There is no need to have grounds for abortion,” Dr Sparrow says.

“It is crazy that over 98 percent are done on the spurious ground of mental health. Abortion should be decriminalised as has happened in Canada in 1988… [and] more recently in the Australian Capital Territory, and last October in the State of Victoria abortion was decriminalised.”

Ms Williams has similar views. “I think the legislation just needs to be scrapped and the provision of contraception, sterilisation and abortion services needs to be part of the mainstream women’s heath services.”

Ms Robertson is concerned that New Zealand is not “adult” enough to see abortion as a health issue. “I don’t think New Zealand has got that viewpoint. It’s still seen as quite an ethical issue. It’s a women’s health issue and it’s nobody else’s business other than the woman’s.”

Minister of Justice Simon Power has justified the administration of the abortion law under the Ministry of Justice. “It is appropriate that the Ministry of Justice administers the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act. When Parliament decided that the Act should be administered in the Ministry, it ensured that the issues covered by the Act, particularly that of abortion, would not be treated as purely medical issues,” he says.

“Ministry of Justice officials regularly liaise with other government agencies about these issues and that includes the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs.”

Conservative Fears

Those on the other side of the abortion debate are concerned that the current abortion law is not being upheld. Communications Manager of Voice for Life Bernard Moran says that many of the measures that his organisation is advocating for can be achieved through better administration of the law.

Mr Moran says that the CSA Act was the “best law that was possible at the time” when it was passed in 1977. The law represented a compromise between two sides that had been engaged in a heated debate about abortion for several years.

The provision of counselling services, Mr Moran says, has been the major fault of New Zealand’s abortion law. Mr Moran would like women who are thinking about having an abortion to be provided with more adequate counselling services and improved information about the procedure and other options available to them, such as open adoption.

Right to Life New Zealand has been a vocal lobby group advocating for the rights of the unborn child. “We would like to see some improvements done, but at this moment we’re focusing on having the law, as passed by Parliament upheld,” says Mr Orr.

Right to Life New Zealand says that abortion is a criminal matter. “It is traditionally accepted in most states that it is a criminal matter because the state has a great interest in protecting the lives of its future citizens. It recognises that unborn children do have rights and they need to be protected,” he says.

Sleeping dogs

Given the current global financial crisis, and the government’s efforts to minimise its wider societal effects, it is unlikely that the issue of abortion will make the government’s legislative agenda in the near future. Minister of Justice Simon Power says that the National government has “no current plans to reform the abortion laws.”

In the event that abortion did make it back on to the public agenda, Mr Power says it would be dealt with as a conscience issue. “In the past, the main political parties, including the National party, have not developed a position on abortion but made it a conscience issue for each of their members of Parliament. If the issue of abortion made it back on to the public agenda, I expect that the National Government would treat the issue in a similar way.”

It seems unlikely that the New Zealand public will engage in another open debate on abortion in the near future. “Abortion is always a controversial issue and many people think that because the system allows abortion things should be left as they are,” Dr Sparrow says.

Letting sleeping dogs lie seems to be the easy way out in terms of the question of abortion law reform. However, the issue of abortion in New Zealand is not going to go away anytime soon. It will continue to inspire heated debate and divide opinions. Ultimately, Ms Williams says, “some government some time is really going to have to take the bull by the horns and just quickly deal with it.”


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Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

Comments (55)

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  1. Sookie says:

    All the anti-abortionists quoted in this article are men. All the pro-choice health professionals are women. Says a lot really. Men will never ever be in a position where they need an abortion. It’s easy for them to judge women and try to control women when they’ll never know what it’s like to have to make that decision.

  2. Magonagal says:

    I agree with sookie that no man will need an abortion but it still seems unfair that a man can be held legally and financially responsible for a child he fathers whether he is aware or not at the time he had sex but has no say in whether or not that child is aborted.

  3. Stella says:

    You’re right Sookie. Men are entitled to their views on abortion, but nobody has any right to judge a woman’s decision until they have been in that situation themselves.

    Very often pro-lifers also have a happy-clappy mindset in which they think that if you have the baby you’ll fall in love with it and live happily ever after. Not in the real world, unfortunately. Empirical studies have shown that aborted fetuses would have been at much higher risk of homicide and child abuse. In very many cases, abortion is the closest thing to a happy ending that an unwanted baby is going to get.

  4. Charlie says:

    Magonal try using protection. Then you’re involved in the decision from the beginning. Unless of course you have no arms and can’t put on a condom. Get a friend to help maybe?

  5. Laura McQuillan says:

    Great article Sarah.
    I’d like to know whether Judge Miller is conservative or really, really concerned that Parliament’s intent is not being upheld. In which case, Parliament needs to debate this and decide what the law should now be in NZ. I don’t think we’re ready as a country for decriminalisation yet though.

  6. Magonagal says:

    Charlie, I was not implying that men should not use protection . My comment related to sperm donors, or men who have been involved in an IVF program who seperate from their partner but she continues with IVF using his sperm. Those men are financially rsponsible if the mother names them on the child’s birth certificate even though they had no say in the child being born. conversely if a couple have chosen to have a child and the woman gets pregnant but then changes her mind it is only her decision that counts when it comes to abortion. I understand why it is the womans choice, it’s her body, but from a male point of view the child is the product of both parents.

  7. Nicholas O'Kane says:

    “All the anti-abortionists quoted in this article are men. All the pro-choice health professionals are women”
    Nice ad-hominem attack.

    For the record there are quite a number of women who are pro-life (Sarah Palin perhaps the most famous, Marilyn Pryor being a notable New Zealand pro-life activist).

  8. Sookie says:

    How is it relevant that Sarah Palin is anti-abortion? Does that change anything or have any relevance to NZ abortion laws? Why even mention her?

    The most vocal anti-choice nutters in NZ are men. I never said there weren’t anti-choice women out there. There’s just a HELL of a lot more anti-choice men out there. And they’re the ones who always want to be quoted. You simply can’t deny that.

  9. Sookie says:

    Oh and by the way – an ad-hominem attack would be “Ken Orr is a disgusting piece of trash who hates women and should be completely ignored”.

    Stating a fact about the genders of those quoted in an article isn’t an ad-hominem attack.

  10. Cara says:

    Really interesting article, to be honest I had no idea that the abortion law was like this at all, seems like it’s dated and someone needs to take some action so it’s at least more clear for the courts!

  11. Sando says:

    No no, everybody has a right to judge a woman on having an abortion. Just like they have a right judge anything anyone has ever done. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in the same situation as her (which is impossible, depending on how speecifically same you’re talking about,) what matters is if you have a an ability to critically reason. The rhetoric of ‘ain’t not your business mang friend’ is whack yo, it’s an argument that encourages an ignorance and mysticisation of womens reproduction and their rights, and quite frankly I don’t want to believe that a magical womb goblin came in and used her magic dust buster to get rid of my partners little problem. Wait, while amusing that was a straw argument. What I meant to say was it is important not to tip toe around an issue that needs to be discussed openly and with rigorous thought. Only through communicating can we further our extelligence.

  12. Sookie, you say men will never be in a position where they will ever need an abortion. In speaking of the abortion of an unborn child as something someone might need you are reducing the life of an existing human being to that of some sort of commodity that you can choose to have or not have.

    The flaw in viewing unborn children as “choices”, as things that can be disposed of if inconvenient, can be shown by the following argument.

    We would not hear people say, “I would never abuse my child, but if someone wants to do so to their own child, then that’s their choice. Neither would someone say, “I would never commit a violent criminal action, but if someone else wants to then that is nothing to do with me”.

    It is a fact that some choices have victims, and if somebody’s choice destroys somebody else’s life, that is everybody’s business.

    When you say that men will never know what it is like to make that choice, aren’t you implying that deep down, a woman knows that by having an abortion, she is taking the life of her pre-born child? If she did not know it was an existing human being, then there would be no problem in making that “choice”. In the conflict is the truth.

    Stella. Your comment “pro-lifers also have a happy-clappy mindset in which they think that if you have the baby you’ll fall in love with it and live happily ever after.” I would be interested in where you get that assumption from? I see no evidence of it in the Pro-Life circles I am involved with. Everyone I associate with in this area is deeply aware of the consequences and many go out of their way to help those woman who choose life for their unborn child.

    You then state, “empirical studies have shown that aborted foetuses would have been at much higher risk of homicide and child abuse”. Can you please provide me with the references to those empirical studies, if this is in fact the case?

    The Freakonomics book by S.D. Levitt, tried to show that in the United States, legalising abortion decreased the crime rate. This and similar research has been discredited and shown to be fundamentally flawed, even by those who take no sides in the abortion debate.

    Stella you then go on to say that “In very many cases, abortion is the closest thing to a happy ending that an unwanted baby is going to get”. Aren’t you here trying to judge whether another person’s life is worth living or not? How can you possibly make such a judgement? It is the very act of deciding whose life is worth living, that is at the very heart of the whole abortion debate. What right have I got to make that judgement? Your mum chose life Stella.

    Sookie, can you please tell me where you get your information that there are a “hell of a lot more “anti-choice” men than woman in NZ?”

    For the record, I am one of those “anti-choice nutters” you talk about. I am a Pro-life man. I am Pro-Life because abortion is not just a problem for woman or a problem for men, it is the problem of every human being. We all belong to the one human family. Nobody can afford to be neutral on abortion. It involves the destruction of an entire group of human beings. Just as we cannot be indifferent to the killing of a new born baby, so we cannot be indifferent to the killing of a preborn baby.

  13. T says:

    The Freakonomics book by S.D. Levitt, tried to show that in the United States, legalising abortion decreased the crime rate. This and similar research has been discredited and shown to be fundamentally flawed, even by those who take no sides in the abortion debate.

    – Can you please provide me with the references to those empirical studies, if this is in fact the case?

    Not much point going into the rest of your rant. It’s all about ‘babies’, ‘pre-borns’ and “your mum chose life” etc. You can’t discuss abortion with someone if they see it as murder. But I will question you on your unsubstantiated claim about the legalised abortion crime rate research which I haven’t ever seen questioned.

    And you didn’t need to clarify it’s obvious you’re an anti-choice nutter.

  14. I says:

    I don’t think abortion is an issue that is so easily pigeon-holed into a “health” or “criminal” matter. To call it a women’s “health” issue implies that the unborn human is something wrong with the woman. I’m not anti-choice, but I think that abortion shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s not like some wart that you go to the doctor for a quick removal. It’s often a devastating choice, and needs to be considered properly. Abortion shouldn’t be something one can simply call up and book an appointment for like in Juno, it should be the last resort, only after all other options have been carefully considered.

  15. I says:

    I don’t think abortion is so easily pigeon-holed into a “health” or “criminal” matter. Calling it a woman’s “health” issue implies it is something wrong with the woman. While I’m not anti-choice I don’t think abortion should be taken lightly. It’s not something one should be able to simply call up and book an appointment for as soon as they realise they’re pregnant, like in Juno. You can’t forget that a human life is concerned, and abortion should therefore be the last resort, only after all other options have been considered.

  16. Stella says:

    Chris O’Brien:

    Regarding the “happy clappy” mindset I mentioned, take a look at the Pro-life website You will find plenty of evidence here for the happy clappy mindset here.

    Regarding my empirical studies, I confess I do not have the reference at the moment as I had this paper at a previous job which involved studying child abuse. Try the library databases.

    Regarding my opinion that abortion is the closest thing to a happy ending some children will get, I do not plan to go into that in detail because it is not your business. I will just say that I had a very unhappy childhood, and believe me I have wished many times that my mother did not choose life.

  17. Chris O'Brien says:

    T or Sookie, or whoever,

    I would be glad to be called an anti-choice nutter, if it meant that just one baby could be saved, I would wear that badge with pride.

    Stella, I am saddened that you feel at times that you wished you had never been born.

  18. T says:

    You’re not saving any babies. We’re not talking about babies, or pre-borns or any other weird shit you’re talking about.

    This article is about abortion.

  19. Phoenix says:

    T, how is abortion in any way NOT related to babies or pre-borns??

  20. T says:

    Do you know what an abortion is? It’s the termination of a pregnancy. The embryo/foetus is removed.

    Calling embryos/foetuses ‘pre-borns’ and ‘babies’ is pointless. A doctor doesn’t call them ‘pre-borns’ or ‘babies’. FFS pre-born is a term made-up by the anti-choice movement. They’re good at clouding a clear issue about choice with stupid made-up words.

  21. Chris O'Brien says:

    T Yes, I know what an abortion is. If you don’t know what an abortion is may I suggest you follow this link. This site directly shows what is involved when the unborn child is “removed”.

  22. Phoenix says:

    Yes I am aware what an abortion is. Are you saying that calling the unborn child a foetus suddenly removes the controversy? Doctors use all sorts of, for want of a better word, unconventional terms not employed in everyday use. Doesn’t change what the words are indicating. Foetuses are still living people.

  23. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Foetuses are still living people.

    Even when you take them out of the body? Even when you puree them and eat them for dinner like me and Ken Orr did tonight? I think not.

  24. Phoenix says:

    No, when you kill someone they are no longer living people. But you see, I though the controversy was about whether we should/have the right to kill them, not about what to call them

  25. T says:

    Kill, pre-born, living people – seriously what the fuck are you talking about?

    Foetuses aborted in NZ aren’t viable outside the womb.

    This is pointless. Abortion is a personal choice and it’s a private matter. You can’t argue with people who don’t understand basic biology.

    Go pray for the souls of the murdered living pre-borns by all means – but don’t think for a second that you actually have a valid argument against abortion.

  26. Phoenix says:

    I’m not trying forming a valid argument against abortion. I actually understand that it’s the only choice in some cases. I’m merely trying to point out the invalidity in your argument.

  27. Chris O'Brien says:

    T, If you are going to argue serioulsy here how about you stop hiding behind a letter and share your real name. I have.

    Has it ever struck you, T, that you were once a foetus, you had your finger prints at less than six weeks. You heart was beating at three weeks and you had brain waves at six weeks. If you wern’t a person then T, what were you? A fish??

    May I quote an authority in relation to your mis-understanding of basic biology.

    “it is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life
    begins at conception, when the egg and sperm join to form the
    zygote, and that this developing human always is a member of
    our species in all stages of it life.”
    Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth, principal research
    associate Harvard University Medical School.

    Abortion a personal choice? A private matter? Well I guess for the aborted person it is pretty personal. Pity they have to compete with attitudes like you are expressing here.

  28. Owlzy says:

    Chris, A foetus is a parasitic lifeform. People get to choose whether they have parasites or not. Think of abortion as a super electronic robi comb. A foetus has as much of an awareness of life ex utero as lice do, before the comb comes crashing down buzzing and full of static electricity.

  29. Chris O'Brien says:

    Owlzy, Parasitic lifeforms? You’ve been watching too many Sigourney Weaver movies mate, or having a few too many late nights, all this talk of falling combs and buzzing static. Maybe check your Ipod plugs haven’t been in too long.

  30. Renee says:

    I was just wondering, for any who are able to answer, are the foetuses (or whatever you wish to call them) anaethetised before they’re terminated? Genuine question, although I hope I haven’t opened a can of worms here …

  31. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Chris: The parasitic lifeform is part of basic biology. Why don’t you read a book?

    Renee: Don’t you think it’s cruel to be sticking needles into the parasites before we pull them out and eat them?

  32. goku_karori_28 says:

    wanna hear about a REAL abortion? heh

    two word: windows ME


  33. T says:

    Why on earth would I put my real name on here? Anti-choice folks like yourself are complete nutbars who abuse women outside hospitals. blow up abortion clinics and rant feverishly on Trademe about how evil women are.

    Believe what you want to believe. The fact is the majority of NZ doesn’t agree with you and abortion will never be illegal in NZ – there’s a reason for that why don’t you consider it.

  34. Louise says:

    You know, Chris has a point here, because the whole birth process does remind me a lot of the Aliens movies where the parasitic larva eats its way out of you. Thank God for vaccuum cleaners!

  35. Stella says:

    Exactly what makes us “people”?

    Is it having a physical body? A statue has a physical body, but it isn’t a person. I think fingerprints probably aren’t enough to confer person status, though brainwaves are a much better possibility (and if brainwaves confer person status, that must mean the foetus isn’t a person before six weeks). Heartbeats, now… suppose we open up a corpse and make its heart beat using electrical impulses; we probably don’t want to regard that corpse as a person, just the remains of a person despite the fact that the heart beats.

    The corpse isn’t a person, and the individual organs, cells etc. are not people on their own, so clearly something else must be added for person status to be reached.

    The soul (however you want to define that) is a very difficult concept philosophically and can’t be empirically proved. Easier to work with is some kind of threshold, possibly a given level of complexity, but how do we define the threshold? Where is it? What is it? Simple conception isn’t necessarily the threshold, for the same reason that the eggs in my ovaries are not people (not at the moment, anyway). Sperms aren’t people either, so just putting the two together won’t necessarily make a person in the same way that putting a liver and a kidney together does not make a person.

    My own view is that consciousness and awareness is what makes a person (hence I think brainwaves could confer person status, but brainwaves don’t always indicate awareness), but when do consciousness and awareness start?

    Seriously folks, we have to get this problem ironed out before we can make any progress with the abortion debate.

  36. Renee says:

    Shitkicker McGee, I actually think it’s much worse to take a body that has a functional nervous system (so can feel pain) and break it apart to make it small enough to pull out of a body. Worse than sticking a needle into it. Hence why I was wondering if they’re anaethetised

  37. Sookie says:

    There’s a reason why doctors don’t perform abortions after 20 weeks. It’s because the foetus could be viable outside the womb and has an “awareness” so to speak. Before that the foetus doesn’t ‘feel pain’. Doctors wouldn’t perform abortions if that was the case. If you believe that they do, and abortion is murder, then you believe doctors the world over are all part of a massive conspiracy and they love killing babies.

  38. Shitkicker McGee says:

    Would you stop it Renee? This talk about foetuses just makes me hungry and, as a compulsive eater, it goes against everything I’ve learnt at Overeaters Anonymous

  39. Stella says:

    Thank you Sookie. An intelligent, practical answer. Given my limited knowledge of foetal development, I’m happy to defer to the medical profession here. After all, they do collectively have hundreds of years of training, experience and research behind them.

    So there’s our answer folks. Before 20 weeks, a foetus is not a person. Abortion before 20 weeks is not a judicial matter under the current judicial code because no person is killed.

  40. Chris O'Brien says:

    Renne, unborn children are not anaethetised before they are ‘terminated’ aka ‘killed’

    Sookie, you are right, there is a world wide conspiracy against the unborn and it is not that doctors love killing babies. It is that the right to life of the unborn child is seen as a lesser right than the right of woman not to be pregnant.

    You are also quite wrong that unborn children do not feel pain before 20 weeks.

    Stella, you seem keen to believe that the whole issue of personhood (magically appearing at 20 weeks), has been solved by a stroke of Sookie’s pen. Can I ask you when you believe your own life began?

  41. Owlzy says:

    Oh Chris, My LIfe Began With You.

    Get it? It’s a Neal McCoy song.

    I figured you’d like references to patriotic american pop country.

  42. Hillary says:

    OK one question for Chris[t] why are doctors performing abortions if it’s murder? And why are they performing abortions if the pre-born/baby/HUMAN BEING!!! etc is screaming the whole time and begging to get a chance at life?

    Are doctors actually evil Nazi war criminals?

  43. Hank Scorpio says:

    would you trust your abortion to dr racism

  44. Chris O'Brien says:

    Hilary. Just because many people are “doing it”, does that make it right?

    It wasn’t very long ago that doctors honoured the Hippocratic oath which they swore on becoming doctors. This oath or solemn promise has been sworn by doctors for over two millennia and it part of was..

    “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion”

    Todays Doctors to a large part have forgotten this.

    As we have rejected the morals and ethical values, (based on the Judeo-Christian ethic), which were essentially the glue that held Western Civilisation together, we are seeing disintegration and decay across most social indicators in New Zealand. Crime, violence, drugs, alcohol, solo parents, poverty, abuse, abortion. It’s all part and parcel of our rejection of following a belief in absolute values. Now it’s all about choice.

    Unfortunately there is a terrible price. For the unborn child it is a violent death. For the mother it is often a lifetime of suppressed guilt, fear, shame and self loathing. This is of course, often denied and suppressed, but the fact of the matter is, that all women who have abortions suffer and unless this is dealt with it will always, in the end, cause problems in their lives. You just can not take someone’s life and pretend it did not happen. Abortion is an iceberg for the women who have them. Fortunately there is always hope and forgiveness. and

    In the confusion, and fear and panic of an unplanned pregnancy, we should be providing support for young women – alternatives to abortion, that will ultimately prove beneficial to the mother and not result in the killing of a child. There are thousands waiting to adopt. Why are were there over 18,000 abortions in NZ in 2007 when there were not even 1800 adoptions? Why are not young women encouraged to adopt and not abort? Many abortions occur because young woman are coerced by males, be it boyfriends, partners or spouses or family members. Isn’t it the male role to protect life? Why have we got so many weak, weak males? Why once they get their girlfriend pregnant aren’t they willing to stand up? If as a society we encouraged adoption far more then there would be far less abortions.

    Hillary often when people are very weak or sick they just can not scream and beg for their lives. They are dependent on others for protection at that time, relying on them to do the right thing. That is why abortion is so abhorrent. If mothers are willing to take the lives of their unborn, what hope is there? We are doing these horrible things to the most defenceless. Again, the right of an unborn child to life is a greater right than the right of a woman not to be pregnant. Surely.

    And I’m sorry about this, but if you want to see the horror of what abortion really looks like, go here to see the gruesome violent death process in full colour video, close up. This is the reality of what “Choice” actually is.

  45. Chris O'Brien says:

    Oops that last link should be

  46. Matt Fairhurst says:

    Chris, I’m not sure how quoting selected parts of a 2,400 year old oath which involved an invocation to pagan gods and prohibited doctors from performing surgery really helps your argument. Either you’re saying that we should be bound by all of the principles of the original oath – in which case you’ll have to find a barber to provide surgery should you ever need it – or you’ll have to admit that we have to be selective in applying the Hippocratic Oath to the modern world – in which case you’ll have to demonstrate the grounds on which you keep some principles of the oath and not others. Which you may be able to do, hell. You just haven’t yet.
    And excuse me, “morals and ethical values that were essentially the glue that held Western Civilisation together”? Say what now? Held it together through The Inquisition, The Crusades, The Thirty Years War, The Napoleonic Wars, and World War One, at a very rough glance you mean? Some ethical values you’ve got there. Gotta get me some a’ them.

  47. Chris O'Brien says:

    Owlzy you are really very funny. I like your sense of humour but, I’m not that much into American pop country to be honest. My guess is you are a little older than the average student at Vic, but I could be wrong.

  48. Stella says:

    Chris: Sookie provided a well thought out answer to my question, with supporting evidence. You also had the opportunity to do this, but you did not. Instead, you just state your views with no evidence to back them up.

    A statement of opinion is not the same as evidence no matter how strongly you believe said opinion. Until you can learn this distinction you have no hope of convincing me that your view is right, and you certainly won’t convince the Ministry of Justice.

    I have no problem with the idea that at an early point in my physical existence (before 20 weeks according to the medical profession) I was not a real person, but just a blob of tissue. In any case, if the idea that conscious life begins when a given level of complexity is reached is magical, so is the idea that conscious life begins at conception, which I think seems to be where you’re coming from. I have also seen those abortion photos you advise me to view, if indeed they are real ones and not ones that show the results of miscarriages. They don’t bother me and wouldn’t stop me having an abortion.

    P.S. the Hippocratic school of medicine was only one of a large number in use at that time, many of which accepted abortion. Picking random quotes that agree with you views is also not the same as evidence. Enroll in a Philosophy paper. They will be happy to help clear up your confusion.

  49. Andrew says:

    The legal status of abortion as it stands accounts for all good public policy reasons where safe access to abortion should be permitted.

    However, Justice Miller is quite right to rule that the ASC should make sure doctors are respecting the law.
    It is irrelevant whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life, the fact is abortion in this country is state funded and as such the state has EVERY right to determine when legal access will be granted.

    By all means request one, that is your right. It is not your right to have one performed by a medical professional using taxpayer dollars. Fullstop

    Similarly the unborn offspring does not have a right to life, even though tort cases in the United States and Australia have determined that the mother owes a duty of care for it.

  50. Stella says:

    Hi Andrew. I’d be really interested to know what you think of abortion as an elective procedure.

    You raised a good point here, which is that the state has every right to restrict taxpayer funded abortions to people it considers to be in need of them (because the foetus is endangering their physical and/or mental health). This is simply a matter of conserving valuable public health resources and makes a fair ammount of sense, but what about the idea of non-taxpayer funded abortions? An overhaul of the law might mean that the public health system would provide abortions to women who need them for health reasons, while other women could go private and get them as an elective procedure.

    Suppose a woman is not eligible for a taxpayer funded abortion. She does not actually need one according to the predetermined criteria for needing an abortion. She says “OK, fair enough, but I still want an abortion and I’m happy to pay for it out of my own pocket.”

    What do you think? Should she be able to get an abortion if she pays for it herself?

  51. Andrew says:

    Hey Stella,
    Sorry I took ages to reply..
    Well it would somewhat balance the competing claims that if you want the right to something then take all the corresponding responsibilities.

    In fact that is exactly what happens in the United States albeit to a more extreme extent. The Hyde Ammendment bars state and federal funding of abortion I believe and as a result the poor often do not or cannot afford to receive the adequate service they sometimes desperately need.

    A further problem with privatising any essential public healthcare is the likelihood that it will be treated as business as opposed to a public service. After all why would a doctor accept government subsidies for providing his service at a set amount with all that red tape when he could probably make even more money through simple, elective procedures not covered by specific laws?

    I believe the end result of privatising abortion is going to be to the detriment of the poor for whom it was originally intended to benefit. The United States remains a prime example.

    Abortion should be state funded and provided as a public service for those who need it for various, directly correspondent medical or extreme public policy reasons such as incest.

  52. Stella says:

    No problem. It’s a pleasure to read a reasoned, well thought out comment on an abortion article.

    I agree with you. I do think that if you’re going to have an abortion you need to know exactly what it involves, and be happy to take responsibility for that, otherwise you’re potentially setting yourself up for psychological problems of the “Oh God I killed my baby!” variety. However, responsibility could be addressed through education within the healthcare system. And the whole purpose of the public health system is to provide healthcare to people who otherwise might not be able to afford it. We don’t want to follow America’s example here.

    Where I disagree with NZ’s current abortion laws is that I don’t think it should be a judicial matter; it should be purely a health matter. I think our current criteria for getting a taxpayer funded abortion are the right criteria, but I question the idea that abortion is a crime if the woman does not meet those criteria. The problem with that, of course, is that while I don’t think a foetus is human it isn’t exactly a tapeworm either, and abortion is something a woman has to enter into responsibly. Not everyone is responsible and mature about abortion, and privatisation is not the answer.

  53. Andrew says:

    Yes, I agree a woman procuring an abortion should not be a criminal matter.

    Therefore, if it were procured illegally then I believe that it is the doctor or individual who performed it that should be held liable for performing the procedure unlawfully.

    You mean you do not believe the unborn is a natural person right?

    Well yes that has been the recurring argument between pro-choicers and pro-lifers and there just isn’t a universal consensus. Is it when it has a brain 5 weeks into development? Is it when it is sentient which is more like 20 weeks into development? There just isn’t a consistent definition from either side, yet by 5 weeks after which most surgical abortions take place it’s hardly a clump of cells either.

    However, there’s no doubt that the unborn is not yet a legal person with specific rights since it is not born yet but then legal personhood is not synonomous with natural personhood anyway.
    There are natural persons who are not legal persons e.g. illegal immigrants.

    Similarly there are legal persons which are not natural persons e.g. companies, the state etc.

    Interestingly duties for the unborn offspring’s care can be imparted by the law, but liability for breach of that duty relies on it being born and attaining legal personhood.

    So with all that in mind, until science and the law come to a consensus on the status of the unborn, I believe it is really a health and public policy matter.

  54. Andrew says:

    By the way it was nice discussing this issue with you too.

    It is a very emotive topic and being a male I often get criticised for having an opinion on something that is so incredibly personal.

  55. Stella says:

    It was nice to discuss with you too.

    It is an emotive topic, and I think it’s quite easy to confuse an opinion with a judgement (not surprising, since for many commentators on abortion, the two are indistinguishable). Obviously, no one can judge a woman’s choice if they haven’t been in her position, but that’s not related to gender. I have never had an abortion myself, so I can’t judge anyone who has made the choice. But if we can never form opinions on things outside our direct experience then we can’t have science, or philosophy, or literature, or the arts. So you go right ahead and have your opinions, and be proud of them!

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