Media Release: Support for NCW Law Reform Remit

11 Oct

ABORTION LAW REFORM ASSOCIATION OF NEW ZEALAND

11 October 2014              FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ALRANZ Backs National Council of Women Remit on Abortion Law Reform; Urges Govt. Action

A remit calling for abortion law reform up for debate at this weekend’s National Council of Women conference adds to a growing chorus of voices that the new government should not ignore, Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ president, Dr. Morgan Healey, said today.

This government has the chance to act on an important issue that has been neglected for far too long, she said. Our outdated criminalised abortion laws have already been flagged by the U.N., and states and countries with similar laws are, one by one, changing them, Dr. Healey said.

“It’s curious that a government so committed to getting rid of regulations won’t address one of the most offensive statutes of all,” she said.

Dr. Healey pointed out that the Australian state of Tasmania decriminalised abortion last year, and Victoria did so in 2008. Meanwhile, in the UK, a meeting next week at the Houses of Parliament will discuss ‘whether, in the 21st century, we can find a better way to regulate abortion than through an antiquated Victorian law’.

“We already know there’s a better way to regulate abortion – and that’s to treat it as a health matter, not a criminal one,” she said.

The remit, from NCW’s Auckland branch, reads: “That NCWNZ request the government to review abortion law and practice with a view to simplifying it and ensuring a woman’s right to choose.” {ed update: The remit passed later on Saturday with a good majority; the June NCW circular (pdf) contains the remits and rationale.}

ALRANZ, which is a member of NCW, fully supports the remit, and hopes its passage will continue the discussion that began during the election campaign, when the Green Party adopted policy to remove abortion from the Crimes Act, Dr. Healey said.

The rationale for the remit urges NCW, as an organisation which has represented women for more than 120 years, to “take a leadership role in securing a review of the law, and clearly [state] a position in favour of legal and practical arrangements that give women the bodily autonomy they have in regard to other medical and personal decisions.”

For more information about ALRANZ visit www.alranz.org

Contact:

Dr. Morgan Healey

ALRANZ National President

info@alranz.org 

ALRANZ: 021-082-76474

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Sept. 28: Global Day of Action in NZ

28 Sep

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By Morgan Healey, ALRANZ President

On the 28th of September 2014, ALRANZ celebrates the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. This is a campaign that began two decades ago in Latin America and the Caribbean and has gone global, with activists around the world drawing attention to restrictive and dangerous abortion laws in their countries. This year’s focus is on stigma and challenging the shame and silence that so often accompanies abortion, even when it is legal.

As the organisers of the 28th of September, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) in partnership with the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion and La Campaña 28 LAC, stated:

The stigma surrounding abortion is complex and pervasive, as well as produced, reproduced and reinforced at individual, community, institutional, cultural, and legal levels. Entire communities stereotype, ostracize and discriminate against individuals who need and seek abortions, as well as women human rights defenders attempting to help individuals to access this human right.

 

It is our job as reproductive rights and justice activists to join in the global chorus to eradicate stigma – not just today but every day. This is not necessarily an easy task. Pervasive is an apt word as stigma manifests itself in subtle and insidious ways.

One example is the act of conscientious objections, where medical professionals are allowed to refuse treatment or care as the result of their own moral objections to abortion. Too often the focus is on the medical professional and their ability to exercise their right to not perform a medical procedure that they disapprove of. But what happens to the pregnant person forced to find help and assistance elsewhere? Is their care delayed? Does it create further stress and anxiety? Does it leave them more vulnerable in an unsafe relationship or environment? And how does this reinforce stigma?

This is the crux of the stigma issue – it not only erects barriers to care but it leaves women feeling as if their choices are amoral, wrong and detrimental. They carry the weight not only of their own lived experiences and the consequence of their choices, but also the gendered expectations of societies that associate ‘womanhood’ with ‘motherhood’. Being defined by your anatomy, which is also harmful to people who do not associate their sexed body with a certain gender (i.e. those who operate outside of and challenge cisgender culture), allows for the constant surveillance and policing of their reproductive choices. Stigma happens at both the macro and micro levels, with the (re)production of discourses that shame women while ensuring they self-regulate their actions, mostly by silencing their abortion experiences.

Turning back to conscientious objection, a false dichotomy is created whereby the virtuous doctor, governed by their ‘moral’ principles is juxtaposed with the errant pregnant person. This power imbalance is important in the perpetuation of stigma and the associate of abortion with shame and silence – it allows those in professions that are often revered and looked up the ability to define the line between good and bad. It provides a legal basis for discrimination and, as Joyce Arthur and Christian Fialla have argued for dishonourable disobedience.

This is one of the reasons the My Decision project is so important and why ALRANZ has chosen to focus on it for the 2014 global day of action – it names and allows for self-identification of those who would refuse care. It is shifting the discourse from a focus on women traversing the public health sphere to search for care and instead calling on medical professionals to provide information in relation to the reproductive health care they provide. It seeks to break down the barriers pregnant people face when they look to access these services and puts the onus back onto those who would object to be open and transparent about their beliefs.

myDecision_flyerFbTile copy

My Decision alone will not end stigma, but it is a vital tool in the attempt to counter the impact. Please join us today in trying to dismantle abortion stigma.

If you would like to be involved in or want more information on My Decision go to http://mydecision.org.nz

For information on the 28th of September campaign go to http://www.september28.org/

Check out this media release quoting Family Planning and ALRANZ’s Morgan Healey: NZ Abortion Legislation Restrictive.

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Suffrage Day Book Launch

18 Sep

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Vote Choice: The Final Round-Up

15 Sep

vote-for-choice-round_1To round off our Vote Choice series, this week we profile the remaining party leaders; a veritable mix bag regarding their position on abortion ranging from the Green’s recent policy on decriminalisation to the not-quite-sure to the status quo – it’s a conscientious vote stupid! OK, so might have oversold it as a range; it is pretty much Greens with a policy to decriminalise, and the rest of the parties who don’t have any policies on the issue (although there were positive murmurings from Internet as posted a few weeks back).

As we have said before – broken record, we know – a conscientious vote makes politicians’ opinions even more important. They have a conscience that will steer their vote. So shouldn’t you as voter know where they stand? We think so (Maggie Barry not so much – yup had to take a bit of a swipe after she flat out refused to provide ALRANZ with her stance at the Women’s Election Forum in Auckland).

The Green Party – the leaders in abortion law reform.

We have written elsewhere about our excitement about the Green’s policy on law reform, which is why they haven’t featured in this series before (or we saved the best for last!). The Green Party is streets above in terms of having an explicit policy on decriminalising abortion. This has been contextualised within their party’s wider women’s health policy, which has some great stuff on disability rights, sexuality and reproduction.

The voting history of co-leaders Dr Russell Norman and Metiria Turei would suggest they are also personally supportive (although that does not matter as much now because they have a policy to comply with – yea!).

Turei has more of a voting record than Norman, who was only in Parliament for the last vote on the newest Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) member. Turei is unsurprisingly checks across our board – voting against any attempts by conservative MPs to make parental notification mandatory for under 16s and against anti choice appointments to the ASC.

Te Ururoa Flavell /Māori Party- The unknown quantity

The new leader of the Māori Party, Te Ururoa Flavell, has a mixed voting recording on abortion (he didn’t answer Family First’s question on either parental notification or decriminalisation abortion, which highlights again the willingness of politicians to not publicly state their opinion on an issue that would be a conscious vote). We do know that former leader, Tariana Turia, was not a proponent of law reform and we hope Flavell will not take her lead.

By way of some background, in 2011 three Bay of Plenty ALRANZ members met with Flavell to discuss then MP Steve Chadwick’s proposed private member’s bill to decriminalise abortion, and try to enlist his backing. At that meeting, ALRANZ didn’t get a commitment to support decriminalisation, and our members’ feeling was that Flavell probably tends conservative, primarily because of cultural concerns (he spent time on the matter of the whanau raising children born after unplanned or unwanted pregnancies), though he also asked lots of good questions and listened to their answers.

Flavell is two for two in voting liberal and conservative on abortion-related topics. He has voted twice to appoint Dr Ate Moala to the ASC (once in 2007 and again in 2011), a known anti-choice doctor. However, he then voted against the appointment of another anti choice doctor Dr Peter Hall and then voted to appoint Rosy Fenwicke, Patricia Allan and Linda Holloway to the ASC. Unfortunately, this doesn’t really tell us much…

Peter Dunne/United Future – not sure we are entirely united on the future

As part of this year’s election (and some of the great resources available to voters to gauge candidate’s stance on the issues) we asked the following question on Ask Me:

Do you support the removal of abortion from the Crimes Act?”

Only one party responded and that was United Future, or more specifically, Damian Light, a candidate for United Future. He said the following:

“We don’t have a policy on this, so it would be a conscience vote for United Future MPs”.

A return to the good ole conscientious vote… Since Peter Dunne is the only United Future MP, let’s have a look at his record… He has checks as a liberal for all votes he has been there for, except for voting in favour of parental notification in 2004. This aligns with Family First’s polling of Dunne, who gets a happy face for parental notification but a sad face for decriminalising abortion. Bit lackluster, we know.

And that is all from us on the major political parties and their leaders. Obviously abortion is not the defining issue in this campaign, but with some strong supporters along with the middle of the roaders we hold onto hope that change is never more than an election cycle away.

In 2014, Vote Choice.

VOTING RECORD: Click here to download a pdf of our “MPs Voting Record Since 1990

Click here for all the posts in the Vote Choice Series.

[Authorised by Dr. Morgan Healey, President, Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, P.O. Box 28-008, Wellington, 6150]

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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.

 [Authorised by Dr. Morgan Healey, President, Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, P.O. Box 28-008, Wellington, 6150]

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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?

 [Authorised by Dr. Morgan Healey, President, Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, P.O. Box 28-008, Wellington, 6150]

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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

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