The Abortion court descison

Today, in what was one of the important developments in New Zealand abortion law for the last 19 years (since when in 1989 then Health Minister Helen Clark (now PM) changed the law to allow girls under 16 to have abortions behind their parents backs), the high court has confirmed what we (in the pro-life movement) had always known. That most abortions in this country were illegal. Here are the findings:

“there is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by the certifying consultants. Indeed the committee has stated that the law is being used more liberally than Parliament intended” (Clause 5c of the judgement). Dead right.

From the NZ Herald: “the committee had failed its statutory duty to review the procedures for abortions and enquire into the circumstances in which consultants authorised abortions on mental health grounds”. So true. mental health has become a blank check for abortion on demand. The judgement cited how in 2005, in Canterbury, 4992 women sought permission to have abortions, and only 27 were declioned. An approval rate of 99.5% (page 20). During the period 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2004, out of 18 280 applications sent to 20 certifying consultants, only 142 (0.8%) were declined. At least some spplications were declined.

“It also sought the committee had failed to in its duty to ensure adequate counselling facilities were available”. I’m not an expert on this area, so I’ll go with what the court said. The court did however, allow counselling in institutions (mostly hospitals) that preform abortions, raising questions about the indepence and neutrality of the counselling.

In another ruling against the pro-life side, the court found that the unborn child (this, and not the fetus, was the term used in the judgement) did not have a right to life under the law, but had a “claim on the conscience of the community, and not merely that of the mother” (page 35).

New Zealand’s present abortion laws are based around the 1977 Abortion, Contraception and Sterilisation Act, which Parliament passed following a Royal Commission on the area. This law clarified New Zealand’s previous ambiguos abortion laws, allowing abortion in “hard cases” such as where continuing the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the life or health (including mental heatlh) of the woman, but banning it in all other circumstances. In 1978 the restrictive prosions of the Act were watered down by deleting the provision for the health risk to be of such nature it cannot be averted by other means. In order for a woman to obtain an abortion legally, she needed the permission of two certifying consultants. The certifying consultants were appointed and overseen by the Abortion Supervisory Committee (the “committee” refered to above), which was given the task of overseeing the practice of abortion in New Zealand, and ensure they were done in accordance with the legislation. The weakness of the legislation was the “mental health” provision, which was interpreted very liberally to allow abortion on demand in practice.

Today’s court descison found that the Abortion Supervisory Committee had failed in its duty, and instead allowed abortion on demand. Indeed the verdict talked about the “wholesale non-compliance by certifying consultants” with the law (I can’t find the quote skim-reading the verdict, but Idiot/Savant has found it somewhere).

The issue is what will happen now. Essentially, the court found that most abortions were illegal, and the Abortion Supervisory Committee had failed to properly oversee the law, but did little else. It refused the request by Right to Life (the group launching the court case) for a mandamus, or court order, forcing the committee to change its ways. But even in the absence of such, the judgement must surely cause the committee to make some changes. However, given the pro-abortion makeup of the committee I would not be the least bit surprised if the committee ducked and turned in every way it could to keep abortion on demand being practiced. But there is still the slim hope that the ruling could lead to significent changes to New Zealand’s abortion law.

If the latter happens, expect “pro-choice” people to demand the law to be changed. Over the last 30 years they have been content to keep the law as it is, because the abuse of the mental health provision enabled them to get what they want- namely abortion on demand. Also, changing the law would reopen the issue, and could have resulted in new restrictions, particularly in the case of late term abortions.

Any new legislation proposed, which Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn is already calling for, would result in abortion on demand in law as well as practice. This would be a defeat for the pro-life side, as women would be able to just walk into a clinic and have an abortion, instaed of going through the time consuming procedure of going through the two certifying consultants to rubber stamp her descison first (in which time she might change her mind). But it would represent an opportunity, as it would reopen the issue, and allow it to get media attention, and for the pro-life side to make New Zealanders rethink their liberal attitudes to abortion. Further, while such a Bill would be likely to pass into law, there could be restrictive amendments to it, at select committee stage, and committee of the whole house stage, which would make it more restrictive than the current practice. The prospect of a more conservative Parliament after the next election, makes this more likely. A likely outcome would allow abortion on demand for early abortions, with a lot of restrictions on late term ones. This would be better than allowing the current practice of abortion on demand.

In any case, we should hope for the best, and keep fighting for a world without abortion. The lives of New Zealands unborn children depend on it.
 

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3 Comments on “The Abortion court descison”

  1. djp Says:

    well said


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