Vote Choice: ACT’s Jamie Whyte – a ‘Narrow’ Ally?

2 Sep

voteForChoice_Page_3This week, the Vote Choice series looks at Dr Jamie Whyte, the leader of the ACT party, and his views on abortion and decriminalisation. A google search of Whyte and abortion provides little in the way of his opinion but does provide an interesting array of articles to read, many from his lecturing days in the UK and/or other academic responses to some of his philosophical arguments. So it was back again to Family First’s Value Your Vote page for information on where Whyte stands in relation to abortion law reform (thanking them is becoming a bit too common for comfort, just saying).

It has always been ALRANZ’s understanding that despite the libertarian positioning of the party that it was generally anti-choice. Possibly this perception has been clouded by Andy Moore’s former role as an office-holder of ACT on Campus. However, Whyte seems to be setting a different tone in relation to abortion law reform.

Whyte received sad faces from Family First, in the following areas:

  • Jamie_Whyte_ScreengrabSupports decriminalization of abortion with note that this should be “subject to a restriction regarding the age of the foetus”.
  • Opposes “informed consent” for abortion (which is usually anti code for telling pregnant people medically unverified lies – e.g. an abortion could increase the risk of breast cancer – something that has no basis in science!)
  • Undecided on the right to life of the unborn child, which he caveats with the comment: Which unborn child are you talking about? A 6 week old foetus or a 37 week old foetus? The difference is important.

ALRANZ would also agree. There is a difference between a fully viable baby at 37 weeks and one still in an embryonic state at 6 weeks. Although it is always good to point out the obvious that no doctor would perform a ‘termination’ at 37 weeks so this is a bit of a false dichotomy; but one that might explain his comment of only supporting decriminalisation in relation to restrictions on the age of the fetus. He may sympathise with the Greens’ policy, which would only allow abortion on request up to 20 weeks?

Where we disagree (and we’d be interested to know his rationale for this) is on parental notification. He would support attempts to change the law to require parental notification for abortions where the pregnant person is under 17.

All in all Jamie Whyte, and perhaps even the party itself, would appear to be a potential ally for a very narrowly focused abortion law reform effort. Out of those ACT candidates that responded to Family First (5 out of 12, including Whyte), three support law reform (Whyte, John Thompson and Stephen Berry), while David Seymour is undecided[1] and Ian Cummings oppose it.

However, taking a wider reproductive justice view, and given ACT’s opposition to free healthcare  — its policy (pdf) says “ACT does not support free healthcare as this results in the provision of a service which is not valued” — as well as its “one country, one law” attacks on Māori, any alliance over decriminalisation would likely break down over treatment of marginalised groups and access to abortion services. It’s no use decriminalising abortion if access to services, as well as to health-care in general (not to mention income equality) — are reduced through other means.

 

[1] Seymour’s comment was “The current law is unclear and should be clarified so that the law is in line with actual practice and so that all cases are treated equally. Such a law would be a conscience vote and I would be guided by my electorate if elected. There seems to be some potential there.

 

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Margaret Sparrow’s Report from Lisbon

27 Aug

I attended two conferences in Lisbon May/June 2014

13th Congress of the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (ESC) held in Lisbon, Portugal 28-31 May 2014. Theme: Challenges in Sexual and Reproductive Health.

This was a well organised congress with 2,400 registrants including several from Australia and three from New Zealand. An interesting feature was the electronic display of posters. Six separate screens enabled six readers to access all of the 251 poster presentations on user-friendly touch screens and these were also made available on the internet to conference participants.

Dr Ellen Wiebe of Canada demonstrating a new cervical cap being developed.

Dr Ellen Wiebe of Canada demonstrating a new cervical cap being developed.

The opening address was historical: “Introducing the Dutch Cap: Dr Aletta Jacobs, first woman medical doctor in Holland” by Professor Saskia Wieringa, University of Amsterdam. This resonated with my interest in the history of contraception and we found we had a lot in common. I was able to tell her that there is a photo of Dr Jacobs in my new book Rough on Women: Abortion in 19th-century New Zealand.

An interesting session was on Green Contraception, promoting contraception with low environmental impact including the reduction of ethinyloestradiol (used in many oral contraceptives) which is harmful to fish and other wildlife when excreted into water. There were several papers discussion the use of long acting reversible contraception (LARCs) i.e. IUDs and implants. These devices are strongly recommended to prevent repeat abortions.

Continue reading

Reproductive Justice: More Than ‘Pro-Choice’

26 Aug

By Dr. Morgan Healey, ALRANZ President

I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at ‘That’s What She Said: Intersectional Feminist Day Conference’ hosted by the University of Canterbury Feminist Society in collaboration with NZ Tertiary Women’s Focus Group on feminism and intersectionality. I took the opportunity to position abortion law reform within a wider reproductive justice framework. While reproductive justice came out of the black women/women of color feminist movements in the US, it offers an important critique of pro -choice movements that have historically focused singularly on abortion. In doing so, pro-choice activists have often erased the multiple oppressions that different women and pregnant people experience.

In summary, and to quote Loretta Ross, the National Coordinator of SisterSong Women of Colour Reproductive Health Collective, reproductive justice is:

the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.

As part of my talk I used the framework to make connections between current events and reproductive justice. The excerpt below was entitled ‘when race and reproductive intersect’ and is a call to all reproductive activists to acknowledge that bodily autonomy extends to more than just the right to an abortion: it requires challenging racial injustices which position certain raced bodies in unsafe and unequal power relationships.

Many of you will likely be aware of the protests happenings in Ferguson, Missouri in the US, where an unarmed black 18 year old, Michael Brown, was shot and killed by the police. His death is not uncommon: it is estimated that ten black people, mostly men, are shot per week in the US by the police, or another statistic that stated that a black person is killed by the police every 28 hours. In a recent article from the US media outlet, Slate, it was noted that St. Louis has a long history of racial segregation. This persistent inequality and marginalization is exacerbating the current protests, with large crowds taking to the streets to express their outrage at the ubiquity of such incidences.

In the Slate piece, the author talked to several young men taking part in the protests, and they explained that on average they are stopped by the police for nothing more than walking down the street ‘while black’ sometimes 10 times a month or once a week. And this level of racial profiling isn’t unique to Ferguson. Urban segregation is said to be increasing in cities across the US caused by the growth of social and economic inequality post -global financial crisis.

But what does racial segregation have to do with reproductive justice? Quite a bit. As multiple media sites have reported – Colorlines, MS, the Huffington Post and RH Reality Check – the ability of women of colour to be able to have and raise children safely and free from violence is paramount to the concept of justice. These are necessary and important connections to make. Racism and racial inequality play a huge role in the reproductive decisions many women make.

Specifically, would-be-parents have to consider their children’s daily safety, wondering if their children will be stopped by the police for nothing more than ‘walking or driving while black’. These are serious concerns that no parent should have to face, and ones that is essential in not only understanding women’s reproductive decision-making and options for parenting but also the importance of reproductive activists advocating for racial equality.

For more on reproductive justice and the articles mentioned above check out:

Prochoice Public Education project

SisterSong

Colorlines: Black Feminists Respond to Ferguson by Miriam Ziola Perez

MS: Black youth in the Crosshairs  by Anita Little

RH Reality Check: What is a woman’s issue? Women of color challenge the prevailing narrative by Emma Akpan

Huffington Post: What Does the Crisis in Ferguson Have to Do With Reproductive Justice? by Terry O’Neill, Nat President of NOW

Slate: Why the Fires in Ferguson Won’t End Soon by Jamelle Bouie

 

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Vote Choice: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Aid

26 Aug

by Kes, ALRANZ Member

An NZPPD Report on the Open Hearing on Adolescent SRHR in the Pacific - political will can make a difference for our Pacific neighbours

An NZPPD Report on the Open Hearing on Adolescent SRHR in the Pacific – political will can make a difference for our Pacific neighbours

New Zealand currently spends about $550 million a year in official development assistance (ODA), mostly in the Pacific. Sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including access to safe and legal abortion and post-abortion care, is a cornerstone to development – if people are able to freely and easily choose the number and spacing of their children, that bolsters gains in many areas, including health, education (especially women’s education), gender equality, climate change and economic development. And these gains are threatened if that right is hindered.

So where does SRHR fit into the parties’ policies on aid and development coming up to this election? At a recent event titled The Great Aid Debate, I asked members of National, Labour and the Greens where sexual and reproductive health and rights sat in their priorities for aid. The Council for International Development (CID) has also asked all the parties about their stance on aid and development in general and two parties mentioned reproductive health under the most pressing issues to focus on for sustainable development: Labour and NZ First. The brief with the full answers is available here. Here’s what these parties say about SRHR and aid.

Labour

First to jump in on my question at the Debate was the Hon Maryann Street of Labour, to state that family planning is a big priority for her party. Street is the Vice Chair of the NZ Parliamentarian’s Group on Population and Development (NZPPD) and she spoke of the sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents in the Pacific, including access to contraception and the need to support teenage mothers to continue their schooling.

Labour told CID their programme priorities will include “health programmes, including sexual and reproductive health and rights [and] education, especially for women and girls”.

National

Next, Paul Foster-Bell of National acknowledged New Zealand itself is not a world leader in sexual and reproductive health. He cited NZ’s high rate of unplanned pregnancy and said NZ “looks envyingly” at countries like Norway which have a much better track record. (Hmm if NZ is so envious perhaps our government could start with following global best practice in SRHR such as decriminalising abortion.)

Foster-Bell said reproductive health is important and pointed out the NZ Aid Programme is currently funding this. Indeed, the sector priorities for the Aid Programme (pdf) include the outcome “Improved sexual and reproductive health and reduced child and maternal mortality” and it supports programmes such as Family Planning’s Healthy Families project in Kiribati.

However, NZ can and should be doing much more. Last year, Population Action calculated NZ is only giving 21% of our fair share of funding needed to provide universal access to family planning. We got spanks for that! And NZ didn’t even attend the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, where a number of other donor countries, including Australia, made large commitments to help enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020.

Green Party

Barry Coates of the Green Party spoke of the importance of people being able to choose the timing and spacing of their children in order to participate in their communities on their terms. He pointed out aid can make a difference in this and that the Greens prioritise SRHR highly. He promised the Greens would double current aid expenditure on SRHR…then said he wasn’t actually sure of the numbers…but promised they would significantly increase aid expenditure on SRHR.

NZ First

As a result of hosting the first Pacific Parliament in April 2013, NZ First recognises “health and reproductive rights” are a key issue in the Pacific.They say “improving long-term sustainable outcomes for the Pacific region will require collaboration and transparency to identify what the issues are and how to work together to achieve tangible results. “

In Sum

New Zealand can and should do much more to support sexual and reproductive health and rights in its work in developing countries. A party’s policy on this is also indicative of how they prioritise SRHR at home. Labour, National, the Green Party and NZ First all acknowledge SRHR is important. Under National NZ has under-performed but how the other parties would action SRHR as a priority remains to be seen.

 

 

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Vote Choice: Social Media Round-up

22 Aug

voteForChoice_Page_2We will return to our regularly scheduled coverage of party leader’s position on abortion. Meanwhile, this week’s Vote Choice series focuses on what we have heard from supporters across social media. We’ve also listed some interesting resources that can help inform your voting decision at the end.

Currently featuring on the Facebook page, Abortion and the 2014 Election, are discussions on women candidates and their position on abortion. Here are three interesting ones:

The personal is not so political

A common refrain heard in the political stratosphere is “I am personally pro-choice BUT would not vote for change because …. “(you fill in the blanks). Enter Melissa Lee, National List MP, who said at the National Council of Women’s (NCW’s) Auckland branch political forum that she was personally supportive but would not vote for liberalising the law because of the conservative Korean[1] Christian community who she feels she represents. A very interesting point raised by one of the commenters, what about all the non-conservative Korean Christians she represents?

The flip-flop (although with a question mark)

On an NZ women in politics website (sorry can’t find the link), it was quoted that Tracey Martin, NZ First List MP, “… is pro-choice and would like to see more work done to find out ‘how women find themselves in the situation where they require these [abortion] services’. Additionally, Tracey would like to see greater efforts in identifying and supplying the support services women require to avoid the need for these services altogether”. ALRANZ has traditionally supported this view of Martin and listed her in the pro-choice camp.

However, looking at Family First’s survey of candidates (and yes, this is a website worth looking at as it provides a very useful array of opinions by candidates), she is down as opposing law reform. As posited on Facebook, did someone from NZ First respond for all the candidates or has Tracey Martin flip-flopped? If someone gets the opportunity, please ask her!  

The ‘why you got to be like that?’

As previously expressed in our piece on David Cunliffe (David Cunliffe and the Pro-choice Side step), we are not overly enamored with the idea of a Law Commission review. This is apparently the line that current Labour List MP and candidate in Maungakiekie, Carol Beaumont is also sticking to. Paraphrasing from her participation in the same NCW forum as Melissa Lee, Beaumont is personally supportive of law reform, but also supportive of a Law Commission review, which she believes will deliver a pro-choice outcome.

It is very disappointing to see that while Labour makes positive noises about women’s reproductive health (see the link to their Women’s Policy below), their dedication to law reform remains lukewarm.

For further reading and information, check out:

Link to the Family First page – http://valueyourvote.org.nz/2014-general-election/. Obviously look for the sad faces as these are the pro-reproductive right happy faces!

Link to Labour’s Women’s policy – https://www.labour.org.nz/sites/default/files/issues/policy-women_0.pdf . The statement about reviewing the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (CS&A) Act is under Women’s health, reproductive health towards the end of the document.

University of Victoria’s newspaper, Salient, has a good round up of party positions on abortion – http://salient.org.nz/features/interviews-with-mps-on-womens-issues

Vote Compass, which is a collaboration between TVNZ and a series of partners, including the Election Commission that ranks your answers to a series of questions and lets you know which party most aligns with your views – http://tvnz.co.nz/votecompass .

Note there is a question on abortion, which is under the ‘moral issues’ section, asking if you would support abortion up to 20 weeks without medical approval (reinforcing both an arbitrary gestational limit with no basis in medicine and the idea that abortion is a moral, not a health issue). But at least they are asking the question, right?!

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[1] For those interested, abortion laws in South Korea are technically restrictive. Abortion is only allowed in instances of rape, incest or severe genetic disorders as per 1953 Criminal Code of the Republic of Korea (according to a 23 August 2012 article in the Guardian). However, a UN document from the Population Policy Data Bank on abortion in Korea states that abortion practice does not reflect the law, and abortion is widely available in the country. Sound familiar?

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Solidarity Demo; Letter to Ireland

19 Aug

Prochoice advocates are holding a solidarity demo tomorrow (Wed, 20 Aug) from 8:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. outside the Irish Consulate at 205 Queen Street in Auckland. The demos are to support rallies across Ireland and Europe also on the 20th protesting the latest horrendous case of what can only be considered the torture of a pregnant woman.

Here is a link to the Facebook Event.

Make some signs. Wear some green.

Background Reading:

Irish Times: They said they could not do an abortion. I said, ‘You can leave me now to die. I don’t want to live in this world anymore’

Sunday Times: State denied abortion to rape victim

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Irish_Demo2

Letter to the Irish Government

Like most people around the world the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) was saddened and appalled by the most recent denial of of yet another pregnant person’s reproductive rights. The continued refusal of the current and subsequent Irish governments to do anything more than the bare minimum to ensure access (I.e the right to travel and information) to abortion services is beyond disappointing, it is an infringement on a woman’s human right to health and to be free from torture.

Can you imagine what it must have been like for a young woman to flee persecution in one country only to be confronted with more of the same in a country that was supposed to be a safe haven? To exchange one violation of her body through sexual assault for another form; to have your body commandeered by a government and forced to not only carry an unwanted pregnancy to term, but forcibly fed with liquids, and cut open by a doctor sworn to do no harm. What kind of world are you, the Irish Government, bringing this child into when you absolutely refuse to acknowledge its mother’s basic humanity?

For what purpose and to what end? In the name of preserving some notion of an Irish, postcolonial identity as sanctified in the 1937 Constitution where a woman’s position is clearly defined in relationship to her ability to reproduce the nation: mothers/incubators, not autonomous beings charged with determining their own reproductive destinies. The desire to sustain the nascent Irish state has lead to women’s bodies being a key battle ground for this contestation; to cleanse the liberalising, pro-abortion influences of the British from the Republic. And yet, it would seem the majority of the Irish people have moved on. Year on year, polls produce increasing not decreasing support for access to abortion. Referendums in 1993 and 2002 both failed in their goals of trying to roll back the decision in the X case.

Why is it only politicians who are trapped in anachronistic understandings of reproductive rights? Would the status quo still operate without external forces intervening? It took the European Court of Human Rights and the unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar to finally bring in legislation around the X case. A full 30 years after the 1983 8th Amendment equated the right to life of the fetus with its mother, and 21 years since the X case when the then Government interned a 14 year old rape victim in the country, refusing her right to travel for an abortion in England. Even the recently passed Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is badly flawed as suggested by multiple, venerable medical professionals and activists before it was passed. And who is left to bear the brunt of this ineptitude? Pregnant people.

It is time for this to end. No more women should be tortured like this young asylum seeker. Abortion should not just be for those with the privilege and means to be able to access abortion off shore. ALRANZ calls on the Irish Government to do what it should have done 30 years ago- repeal the 8th Amendment. Send the message that you trust women to make decisions about their bodies; not the medical community, not the Catholic Church and not you, the legislators. Repeal, repeal, repeal. It is the only humane option left.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Morgan Healey
On behalf of ALRANZ

My Decision. Kei a au te Whakataunga.

17 Aug

My Decision. Kei a au te Whakataunga
mydecision.org.nz

 

MEDIA RELEASE                                                   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

17 August 2014

NEW WEBSITE LISTS DOCTORS WHO OPPOSE CONTRACEPTION

A new grassroots project aimed at sharing information about doctors and other medical professionals who hinder reproductive health-care access because of moral or religious reasons is being launched today online.

Called My Decision/Kei a au te Whakataunga (www.mydecision.org.nz), the project invites people seeking services like contraception or abortion to report any experiences of hostile or unhelpful health professionals to the website.

myDecision_flyerFbTile copyBut the site is not just for patients. My Decision spokesperson Terry Bellamak said organisers were also inviting doctors and others who “conscientiously object” to some services to list what options they do and do not offer.

“From the standpoint of consumer protection, it makes no sense to keep potential patients in the dark about their health care providers’ intentions. ‘Conscientious objectors’ who agree can demonstrate their good faith by registering on our site,” she said.

Ms. Bellamak said the project, which has been a year in the making, was sparked in part by the 2010 court judgment that expanded conscientious objection rights of doctors, and the Medical Council’s subsequent decision not to mount a challenge, nor to publish doctors’ conscientious objection status on their website.

Since then, there have been several worrying cases, including one in Blenheim last year, when a woman was denied contraception by a doctor who was reported as saying he didn’t “want to interfere with the process of producing life“.

“In the spirit of the old ‘Hot and Cold Doctor files’ compiled by women’s health activists in the 1970s, we decided we’d have to do this work ourselves,” Ms. Bellamak said.

For more information:
mydecision.org.nz
mydecisionnz@gmail.com

 

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Vote Choice: Colin Craig of the Conservative Party

11 Aug

vote-for-choice-round_1This is the first election that may bring Colin Craig into Parliament, so we took a look at Bob McCoskrie’s “Forum on the Family 2014″ interview with him.

Firstly, on parental notification (from 21.19 in this YouTube video)

CC: Oh, absolutely. Hey, I’d change it if I could, absolutely – I’d propose it. I think it’s long overdue that we recognize that an exception to what is otherwise a generally accepted principle, which is that parents or guardians are consulted around the medical issues of children, simply shouldn’t be made on this issue – it shouldn’t be made on any issue. When did we think that separating children from their parents was the smart way to go? It’s not, it’s another breakdown of what I believe is the basic institution of society, which is the family. You start getting the law in there and prying apart those relationships, and isolating a child in a particular circumstance, which could be a difficult one – it’s just not the right way to go.

Far from “prying apart those relationships”, the current law (explained here) is designed to protect those who don’t feel able to tell their parents/guardians. Nothing prevents young pregnant people from informing and/or involving their parents if they feel able to. Good child-parent relationships cannot be legislated into reality, so vulnerable pregnant teens must be protected from having any decision forced on them.

Colin_CraigNext, Craig goes on to explain why he supports legislation giving “an unborn child the right to life”, even though he accepts that such legislation is unlikely to ever be passed in New Zealand:

BM: In the Value Your Vote, in 2011, I think you got in a bit of trouble because one of the questions we asked was “Does the unborn child have a right to life?”. And…

CC: Yeah, was that the exact wording? I think it was “Would you support legislation? .. I think was –

BM: Giving an unborn child the right to life-

CC: Yeah, yeah.

BM: And you put undecided.

CC: Yeah, I did.

BM: And, in this year’s one, that we’re about to release, you’ve put ‘Yes, you would support it’.

CC: Yeah.

BM: What’s changed?

CC: Well, I think the understanding of the question’s changed, because the first time that that came out I was looking around the world going “Okay, where have they got legislation along these lines?” and Poland, which is a 97% Catholic country, was trying to get legislation through to that effect, and they were having a lot of difficulties around the legalities of it. So I looked at it very much strictly on the wording, and not so much on the principle. Now I’m looking at it in terms of the principle and saying well, I absolutely support an unborn child’s right to life, and I always have – that hasn’t changed, but I think the way I’m looking at the question has changed, in that I’m seeing it not so much as a “Can you practically imagine that we could get legislation in this country to that effect?” It’s more a principled answer to say this is where I do stand.

And finally, he comments on the Greens’ proposal to decriminalise abortion:

CC: Well, look I was already, I mean I’ve been interviewed on TV about that, and I just said “Look, I think that’s a crazy, extreme suggestion.” I think that we already have too many abortions and I think that anyone in their right mind would hopefully have the ideal that we should reduce those. And hopefully get rid of them altogether, although I think that’s a Utopian view. I don’t think we could achieve that, but we certainly can achieve a dramatic reduction. And that’s a life saved every time and I… for me that’s huge and I think that those – and I’m imagining that some people here (gesturing to audience) probably work in that field, and I’ve always thought of it like this: If we could reduce abortions by a thousand a year, in twenty years down the track, you put every one of those kids in a room, you’d have 20,000 people there who would otherwise have died. (scattered applause) And I think when you think like that, it makes it really clear where we should be.

BM: What about in terms of pre-screening? For gender selection, for Down Syndrome? For cleft palate, like in the UK?

CC: Oh, no, no, look I’m not in favour of that because I think all you’re doing is then giving people more reasons to go there. I mean, and I know in some countries they, you know, it’s all male-female and males are more important so let’s ditch the females – I’m not sure there are any countries where they do it the other way around yet. Although if feminism keeps going, you never know, Bob. (laughter from audience) You never know. But no, look, I think it’s just such a dangerous place to go. I think we do want to know if the mother’s health is going to be compromised. That for me is what pre-screening should be about. It should be about “Is this healthy? Are we all going well and we’re on track?” Because there are times when medical intervention is necessary. And I think that’s what medicine should be focussed on, is preserving life, both mother and child.

So to sum up:

• he wants mandatory parental notification laws

• he supports the principle of right to life but doesn’t think it’s practical

• he thinks that letting the pregnant person decide for themselves is crazy and extreme

• he doesn’t support any pre-screening abortion for any reason unless there is a health risk to the pregnant person, because it gives people “more reasons to go there” (ie, ignorance is bliss!)

• he’s a little worried about the feminist agenda

So there you have it. Colin Craig, leader of the Conservative Party, a true conservative, cares so deeply about families that he neglects to consider individuals.

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Many thanks to Kerri for watching, listening and transcribing CC.

Read all the entries in our Vote Choice series.

 

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Vote Choice: David Cunliffe & the Pro-choice Side Step

5 Aug

vote-for-choice-round_1This week the Vote Choice Series is featuring the leader of the Labour Party, David Cunliffe, and his views on abortion law reform. While Mr. Cunliffe has not to date subjected himself to the Bob McCoskrie/Family First show, he did make a brief comment on abortion as part of the Labour leadership race last year. Thanks to Young Labour, spearheaded by the great Jessie Lipscombe, all leadership candidates were asked about law reform. This is what Cunliffe had to say:

“I want to see a woman’s right to choose protected. The current law hasn’t been reviewed for many years and I think that is now urgent. The Law Commission would be best placed to undertake this review as it is a conscience issue which splits across parties”.

The statement starts off on a positive note, with Cunliffe touting his pro-choice credentials. However he then makes a deft political move of side stepping the issue and placing it into the hands of the Law Commission. Regardless of the possible merits of the Law Commission route, in this instance it seems to be a both a conciliatory act and imagean easy out on the part of the would-be leader. Specifically, a review by the Law Commission will not shift the ability of MPs to vote their conscience (i.e its recommendations are unlikely to change the views of the dyed in the wool antis), but it does have potential to provide legitimacy to what is presumed to be a review that would change the law for the better. (Remember how well that went in the 70s with the Royal Commission, which we can safely blame for the confusing and useless law we currently have.)

It kind of sounds like we’re not even satisfied with what is overall a pretty positive statement from a potential Prime Minister. However even Brendan Malone (Pro-Life NZ) in his blog the Leading Edge thought this statement reflected Cunliffe’s desire to appear moderate (we don’t often agree so that is a momentous statement!). And it is this attempt at moderation that irks; no woman’s sexual and reproductive health should be subject to political game playing. Cunliffe is certainly not alone or the worst at side stepping the issue by deferring it to other institutions. As we know a similar approach worked in Victoria, Australia in 2008 and the outcome there was a law that allows abortion up to 24 weeks. [Yes, that is right, 24 weeks - the sky has yet to cave in and pregnant people have not starting thinking, “hey I can abort up to 24 weeks so what’s the rush?!” Surprise, pregnant people are not the callous, inhumane individuals the antis would like to make them out to be.]

A look at Cunliffe’s previous voting record does further contextualize what we acknowledge was a one off statement at the time he was seeking to make himself palatable to the Labour Party members. Unlike Key, Cunliffe did not support any of the amendments in favour of parental notification in 2004. He has also consistently voted for candidates for the Abortion Supervisory Committee that are relatively liberal in their views, and against those who are supported by the antis.

In Summary…
Overall we’d be pretty positive about David Cunliffe’s position on abortion law reform and give him the pro-choice tick from ALRANZ. However we would like to see greater leadership from him on the issue. If he truly wants to see a woman’s right to choose protected then more than a pro-choice side step is needed; change will come when politicians do not feel compelled to cower behind judicial organizations to be effective.

Vote Choice: Winston Peters – the Conservative

29 Jul

vote-for-choice-round_1

Vote Choice: Winston Peters – the (well, a) Conservative

This week’s featured politician is Winston Peters. According to Peters life begins at conception because…the royal baby (?!). We know this because, again, Bob McCoskrie from Family First did the hard work for us in an interview with Peters during which he asked him about his and NZ First’s views on abortion (at 20:35 in the video). The transcript from this section of the interview is below.

The interview, as well as his voting record, highlights Peters’ is conservatism about abortion. He supports “safe, legal and rare” abortions but he opposes the decriminalisation of abortion and actively supports parental notification for young people seeking terminations. In 2004 Peters voted conservatively in three movements to amend Clause 37 of the Care of Children Bill which would make parental notification of a termination compulsory for people under 16.

In 1990 Peters did vote in favour of the repeal of Section 3 Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act relating to contraceptive advice to those under 16. Since then, he has consistently voted conservatively on abortion. You can see his voting record in our PDF of the list of MPs’ voting records on abortion.

In his own words: Winston Peters on abortion

Now, for your information and entertainment, here is the transcript of Peters and McCroskie’s discussion on abortion. Particularly savour the moment where Peters reckons New Zealanders’ reaction to the royal baby is proof life begins at conception.

Bob McCoskrie (BM): We’re up to parental notification. Do you support basically parents being told if their teenager is pregnant and is considering an abortion – do you think parents have the right to know unless there are exceptional circumstances which can be argued through the court?

Winston Peters (WP): If that girl is in the parents’ care, that is legally the parents’ care, the answer’s yes.

BM: Simple as that?

WP: Simple as that.

BM: Is there a private member’s bill coming out of New Zealand First to fix that? ‘Cause it’s dragged on for a lot, I mean there’s-

WP: Well, uh, we’ve got 8 members- 7 member’s bills up now. That is, we’ve got a lot of bills waiting, trying to get them in the ballot paper. Uh, so, if you ask me the question “Have we got such a bill ready?” No. But that’s the first time anybody’s asked us. Amongst other things.

BM: I’ll keep asking [laughter]

WP: Well hang on, we’ve got some serious bills on big issues, about the unfairness of society, the unfairness of the economic policy. Issues to do with who owns this country and the land and the farms and what have you. So I’m not saying that your issue’s not important, but what we have got, waiting in the ballot box, are very important issues as well. That’s all I’m saying.

BM: Let’s talk about abortion. There appears to be a clash in the minds of New Zealanders of whether a woman has a right to an abortion or a unborn child has a right to life. Which side do you come down on?

WP: Our position has never changed, nor has mine since I’ve been a politician. If we are to have abortions they should be [counts on fingers] safe, they should be legal, and they should be rare. That’s where this party stands.

BM: So do you support the Greens’ policy of decriminalising abortion?

WP: No we don’t.

BM: But you’ve just argued that they should be legal. So-

WP: Oh no no. If it happens, our position is they should be safe [counts on fingers], they should be legal and they should be rare.

BM: So legal within the guidelines that are in there.

WP: That’s right. And don’t forget I emphasise the word rare. That’s not what’s happening now as you well know. The Greens’ want to open, uh, no rules at all. The Greens are not just saying we want to make abortions legal, as you well know they are now. They want total removal of all restrictions on this issue.

BM: So you’ll oppose the decriminalisation. What about in terms of, for example, gender selection, Down syndrome, where there’s abnormalities, I mean, the Greens’ policy suggests that right up to 40 weeks, a child with abnormalities-

WP: But we’re ah- let me tell you about this year. The Greens have never been in political power since they began in the name and the shape of the title of the Values Party in 1972. They’ve been around a long time and have never made it and I don’t want to be on the stage, wasting my time talking about a party that’s never made it.

BM: Can we go back to that- [Applause and cheering from the audience]

WP: Well, this interview is about a party that has made it. And it’s gonna make it big time in 2014.

BM: So the Greens- ah, well there’s another party that reckons that a child at 19 weeks is entitled to be aborted but at 20 weeks you shouldn’t abort it. When do you, for your personally, when do you think life begins? When does an unborn child have a right to life, at what point in their life?

WP: Well speaking biologically, life begins from the very start.

BM: Conception?

WP: Yes. [Applause] Well isn’t it curious, it was the royal family and the day we all knew, as members of the Commonwealth, we began, we’d think “There is a baby. It’s gonna be an heir to the throne”. Right? Now look at that concept, as opposed to what people say in other circumstances. So my answer is, from the beginning.

So that’s that. Remember, we encourage members to go along to candidate forums or local meetings and ask candidates where each stands on abortion. You can send through your intel to info@alranz.org so we can begin to profile candidates and their views. Or if you would like to feature a candidate and write up their position for the blog, please send that through to us for posting.

 

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