Voice for Life is New Zealand’s largest and oldest prolife group, founded in 1970 by New Zealand foetal surgeon Professor Sir William Liley

During the late 1960s it was suspected that abortion reform would follow the British example. Changes were taking place in Australian states and New Zealand had to be next.

Two Auckland-based doctors led the campaign against abortion. Both were aware that abortions had been gradually increasing in public hospitals and who among their colleagues would support changes to the law.

Dr Pat Dunn, a devout Catholic, worked as a specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology. He collaborated with Professor Sir William Liley, an agnostic, who in 1963 pioneered a technique for carrying out blood transfusions on preborn children whose lives were in danger because of rH incompatability with their mothers.

The British Medical Journal published Sir William’s report as a historic first, not only as a breakthrough in the treatment of the disease, but also the first time a preborn child had been successfully treated as a patient in medicine.

The medical speciality of perinatology was established and internationally in medical circles, Sir William was known as the “Father of Fetology”.

He was very active in trying to educate the New Zealand public about the humanity of the preborn child from conception, through numerous newspaper articles. His opponents didn’t make the mistake of debating him on when human life began, they focussed on stories of women in particularly difficult circumstances who deserved access to safe and legal abortions.

Sir William Liley had huge mana and an attractive, down-to-earth personality. He exuded enthusiasm for the wonders of human life at the earliest stages. His exposition of the scientific realities made a lasting impression on his audiences whenever he spoke around New Zealand.

In March 1970, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC) was established in Auckland with Sir William as national president. Earlier, he had addressed a packed out meeting in the Auckland Town Hall. He asked for the lights to be dimmed and in the near darkness played a tape recording of the heart beat of a 12-week old baby.

The loud regular swishing noise filled the Town Hall. The effect was dramatic and unforgettable.

Sir William and Dr Pat Dunn embarked on a series of whistle-stop recruitment tours around New Zealand. By 1972, SPUC had 25,000 members in 28 branches.

By 1975, there were 40,000 members in 56 branches.

Abortion was the most contentious issue in New Zealand. Families were divided, friends fell out, churches were split. If the subject was raised at a dinner party  uproar could be guaranteed.

SPUC played a major advocacy role in a divided Parliament, with a national petition to Parliament in 1975, signed by  113,381 New Zealanders.

to be continued…