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Does the abortion legalisation discriminate against men?

To the Select Committee,

I object to the ‘Abortion Legalisation’ bill for various reasons, including the fact it introduces into law an inequality between men and women.

The following argument presupposes two ideas. Firstly, the principle of equality. That is, what is legal for men should be legal for women. Conversely, what is illegal for men should be illegal for women. Secondly, this argument presupposes the nature of what is aborted is a living human being.

  1. If it is illegal for a father to kill his offspring, then it should also be illegal for a mother to kill her offspring.
  2. It is illegal for a father to kill his offspring.
  3. Therefore, it should also be illegal for a mother to kill her offspring.

Like all arguments in this form, the conclusion is inescapable if the premises 1 and 2 are true. I have therefore tried to anticipate a number of objections to premises 1 and 2.

Reply, it is a woman’s body, so it should be her choice.

Note this is used as a slogan, and as such tries to encapsulate a short, pithy manner a more complex idea. The idea expressed here seems to be that a woman should be able to choose to kill her offspring by virtue of her offspring being inside her body. This would constitute an objection to the first premise.

In response I note that premise 1 is logically equivalent to;

  1. If it is legal for a mother to kill her offspring, then it should also be legal for a father to kill his offspring.

The consequent here is necessitated by the principle of equality under the law. This means either deny the principle of equality under the law or affirm it should also be legal for a father to kill his offspring. Neither option is acceptable; reductio ad absurdum. The rejection of the first premise on the basis that the woman’s offspring is inside the woman’s body is reduced to absurdity, necessitating the antecedent—that it should be legal for a woman to kill her offspring—be rejected.

Reply, to bite the bullet and deny the principle of equality under the law.

This principle however is already written into law, see the NZ Human Rights Act 1993, Section 21, subsection (a). Quote;For the purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are—(a) sex, which includes pregnancy and childbirth:[1]

This affirms one cannot discriminate against someone on the grounds that they are male or female. Nor can one discriminate on the grounds that someone is pregnant or has given birth.

Reply, the non-discrimination on the basis of pregnancy entails a woman seeking to terminate a pregnancy should not be refused.

In response, to clarify, this argument isn’t opposed the right of a woman to kill her offspring on that basis. It opposes the inequality of a woman being able to kill her offspring when a male cannot. Since it is absurd that a male be permitted to kill his offspring, it is likewise absurd that a female be permitted to kill her offspring.

In addition, just as it would be illegal to be discriminated against on the basis that you are woman, it is equally illegal for you to be discriminated against because on the basis you are a man. Accordingly, as this includes pregnancy and childbirth, just as it is illegal to be discriminated against because you are pregnant or have given birth before, it is also illegal to be discriminated against because you are not pregnant or have not given birth before.

Reply, there is already an inequality inbuilt into biology and the law should reflect that biological inequality.

This reply posits the mother should uniquely have the right to kill her offspring by virtue of the fact that she uniquely bares the physical burden.

In response, the physical burden of pregnancy confers upon the woman the right of first preference to decide on what kind of life and circumstances her offspring will be raised in, for she, being by nature the primary caregiver, is in the unique position to provide the best care for her child. The physical burden of pregnancy does not confer upon her the right to unilaterally decide on her offspring’s death. To do so goes against natural law and usurps the right of the father to take responsibility for said child, not to mention the rights of the child to life.

One may choose to press this reply further by offering counterexamples of inequalities in law that recognise facts of biology, such as the differences between maternity leave and paternity leave.

Maternity leave, however, is equally available for fathers to use instead of mothers. This helps to show the equality of men and women under the law. Even if maternity leave was not available for the father, or there was another privilege conferred upon women alone, I would argue that said privilege is provided because it is equally in the interest of both men and women.

Reply, when abortion services are under a health framework, both men and women will equally be able to access all services for their health.

This reply considers abortion services as healthcare.

In response, even if we were to consider abortion services as healthcare, it would be a very strange form of healthcare, for there is no other form of healthcare where the criteria for success is measured by the death of another human being. More relevant for this argument, it would be a strange form of healthcare because it would require providing a medical, even surgical, intervention to a healthy person. Pregnancy is not an abnormality or sickness; it is a natural and normal response of a human body to external stimuli, preparing for a natural, normal and safe ending called childbirth.

In addition, liberalising medical interventions to terminate this process makes little sense, for it is safer to birth a child early and alive than killing the child prior to extracting it in pieces, especially in terms of mental health for the mother and after viability at 24 weeks gestation and 90% viability at 26 weeks gestation. It is worthwhile noting here a Curia Market Research poll in 2017 showed the New Zealand public have little interest in liberalising abortion beyond 20 weeks. Only 4% think the legal limit should be later than 20 weeks, 9% remain at 20 weeks, with 50% thinking it should be less.53% of those who generally support abortion think the time limit should be less than the current 20 weeks—29% of abortion supporters say 10 weeks or less.[2]

There are other grounds of discrimination in this Human Rights Act which this proposed legislation contradicts, especially the fundamental right to life of the living offspring, but I have no doubt other submissions to this body will more eloquently detail that objection.

Thank you for your consideration,

Stuart McEwing.

Footnotes:

  1. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1993/0082/latest/DLM304475.html
  2. https://www.familyfirst.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Abortion-Poll-Results-January-2018.pdf
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