Voice for Life is a national charitable organisation that exists with the purpose of speaking out on issues of bioethics, particularly regarding abortion and providing practical support networks to vulnerable women facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies.
The National Executive Committee of Voice for Life [for ease of reading, henceforth in this document known as VFL] is respectfully contacting the Select Committee that is charged with taking submissions from the New Zealand public and organisations within on the matter of changing our abortion laws. A draft piece of legislation has been tabled.
As such, we are writing to inform the Select Committee of our unwavering opposition to this proposed legislation.
Our concerns and reasoning are as follows:
1. Life for the human individual begins at conception.
This is when the sperm combines fully with the ovum and as a result, if all things progress normally, a zygote arises [multiples can also arise in the cases of twins, et cetera].
This is a scientific fact. VFL automatically calls into question the intellectual and educational integrity of anyone who claims otherwise.
VFL requests of the New Zealand government that they pursue legislation that recognises biological reality, and seeks to protect the unborn child, recognising them as a member of our community. As a member of our community, the unborn child is therefore entitled to the same protections we all enjoy – most notably and most importantly, the right to life.
2. The Government appears to be acting as if it has a legitimate mandate from the public to push for liberalisation of our abortion laws. So far, they have yet to provide evidence of this mandate. VFL does not believe that lobbying from The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) can be classed as a legitimate mandate from the New Zealand public.
A poll conducted by the Curia Market Research organisation found in 2016 that 56% of women wanted shorter time frames on abortion than the current 20 weeks. Results were also in direct opposition to what is being proposed by liberalisation options 1.
Concurrently, the election results in New Zealand in 2017 had Labour and The Green Party receiving only 43% of the vote. Despite high ranked members of Labour pushing pro-abortion ideologies, this party allows for conscience votes from members on this issue, and we know there are anti-abortion members of Labour. Only The Green Party put themselves forward as fully supporting abortion. Likewise, it can be argued that a portion, and most likely an unknowable portion, of people who voted for Labour are not in favour of liberalising abortion but voted for them due to other issues. New Zealand’s political history is one that finds people are not “one issue voters”, so it’s extremely disingenuous to claim that a vote for Labour is a vote for abortion liberalisation.
Furthermore, Labour and The Green Party only found themselves in power because of an agreement with New Zealand First, a party whose membership and voting support tends to lean towards anti-abortion sentiment.
It should also be noted that over half of the submissions made to the Law Commission’s abortion investigation were opposed to liberalisation of abortion laws. [1,677 out of 2,280, which is approximately 73%].
VFL asks that if the government is going to claim a mandate from the public about altering abortion legislation in this country, that they at least respect the public enough to detail where that mandate has come from.
3. VFL does not believe this draft bill will fully support women facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies. So much so, we believe this bill will actively harm many women.
We see in the bill there is no protection against coercion from other parties. We know from our colleagues working in post abortive counselling services that many women report coercion. From teenagers explaining the fear that they’d be kicked out of home if they continued with a pregnancy, to women being physically assaulted by partners demanding abortion. There’s also a very real likelihood of sexual offenders using this law to hide pregnancies conceived when they raped a vulnerable female.
The draft legislation seeks to streamline abortion provision and in doing so removes counselling processes. Currently, while not perfect, the abortion care pathway in New Zealand provides some opportunity for health care professionals in this field to identify domestic violence and coercion. Such professionals have a legal and moral duty to offer support and, in some cases, report this abuse. Such safety nets will simply not exist under the draft legislation.
Likewise, there is no prohibition against sex-selective abortion; that is, abortion done for the sole purpose that the unborn child is an unwanted gender, usually female.
With New Zealand becoming a more open society and welcoming immigrants into our beautiful and friendly country, there are people coming in who do not share the same values of gender equality that underpins New Zealand society. As a result, female foetuses are often targeted for abortions. This is a more insidious version of coercion, as vulnerable women in ethnic communities find themselves seeking abortions of female unborn in order to please their husband or their families. Abortions they themselves don’t particularly want, and in New Zealand, are not necessary as women are equal to men. Prolonged exposure to New Zealand values will ease the assimilation process for our new citizens, but in the meantime, many unborn children will be destroyed simply because they are female. VFL reflects on the irony that abortion, peddled as a “woman’s right” and something that apparently liberates her, could be used to destroy women and further degrade their standing in our community.
4. VFL also raises concerns about the draft’s legislation’s ability to allow abortion up till birth for any unborn child that is found to be disabled in some way. The bill doesn’t quantify the level of disability that will enable an abortion to be authorised.
Anecdotally, VFL has heard of stories of women being offered abortions for conditions such as an extra finger or Downs Syndrome. The intention for abortions for disability under the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act was for disabilities that rendered an unborn child “incompatible with life”. VFL has grave concerns that this draft legislation will put further pressure on women facing a difficult diagnosis. The streamlined process of the proposed new system will also take away from women and their whānau a time to consider their options and to seek second opinions which would alleviate their fears regarding treatment options for their child once born.
There have also been numerous stories, both told to members of VFL as well as published in the media, where women report a bullying type mentality from some health care professionals when there is a possibly of a disability in the unborn child.
VFL also recognises that there are extreme cases of life limiting diagnosis found in some unborn children. VFL therefore ask that before liberalising abortion law in New Zealand that our government commits to establishing a nationwide pre-natal palliative care support network to women and their whānau when faced with such a tragic diagnosis. While the evidence is small, and a lot of it is anecdotal, women who carry pregnancies to term, knowing that their unborn child will die during birth or shortly after, have better mental health and grief processing outcomes than those women who seek abortions.
VFL is also concerned about the rates of abortion in our tangata whenua. Despite only making up 15% of New Zealand’s population, Maori wahine obtain 23% of abortions. This shows a marked lack of care and attention from the New Zealand government, who have a duty under the Treaty of Waitangi to actively protect Maori interests, as well as meet the needs of the
community. Clearly this government, and many before it, are failing to provide adequate care to Maori wahine facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies. It is not in the best interests of our tangata whenua to be aborting so many of their precious tamariki.
Therefore, when all interrelated issues are combined, we see a failure by this government and many before it, to propose and implement adequate support networks for women facing unplanned or difficult pregnancies. A liberalised abortion law will simply make it easier for the government, and society, to ignore these women and their unborn children. Something that goes counter to the spirit of New Zealand community.
5. VFL is also concerned that this bill will take away rights from other born persons, namely health care professionals and members of the public who wish to provide alternatives to abortion yet doing so from the outside of a hospital or abortion clinic.
The importance of a conscience clause cannot be overstated. Healthcare professionals need to have autonomy in decision making regarding the provision of care. The State already recognises this right, and must work to entrench it further, or at the very least, leave it be.
Abortion and contraceptive access is widely available and easily accessible in New Zealand. There is absolutely no need to force health care professionals to act against their most deeply held convictions for a woman to obtain an abortion. Likewise, if this bill were to pass, abortions will be easily accessible, so much so that ads for clinics will appear on social media and in any Google search. The need for forcing health care professionals to be involved in the abortion process is completely unnecessary.
New Zealand also acknowledges and protects the right to free speech and assembly. For many women seeking an abortion, those few on the sidewalk offering pamphlets and a non-judgemental ear, may be the only opportunity those women have to considering alternatives to abortion.
Free speech and the right to publicly protest or in the cases of anti-abortion sidewalk counsellors, to simply advocate, is vital to an open society.
VFL also raises the question, that if abortion is truly just another medical procedure, with no lasting consequences, and the unborn child holds no moral weight, as the abortion supporter would have us believe, then why the need to “protect” women seeking abortion from such persons?
VFL therefore makes mention that there are serious moral questions to be answered in this discussion, and that the abortion supporter does themselves no favour by trying to silence the opposition. They only serve to prove our point. By forcing silence on those who speak against abortion, they are displaying that there are serious ethical concerns, and that there is an innocent human being whose life will be forfeited by a desperate mother in desperate circumstances.
VFL implores the New Zealand Government to better serve its people by offering and maintaining improved social support and life-affirming medical care for women facing crisis and difficult pregnancies. That this support can’t be achieved alongside a grossly liberalised abortion law that only seeks to ignore the real and complex problems facing women and their whānau in this situation.