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What is the motivation for the proposed Abortion Bill?

The following is a letter to my local MP, asking for him to vote agains the proposed Abortion Bill 2020.

Thank you for all the work you have been doing in our community. I follow your Facebook feed and appreciate your many efforts to improve the lives in this electorate and country.

I am writing to you with serious concerns regarding the bill liberalising abortion in NZ, especially the poor arguments used to justify the changes it proposes and its speedy passage through parliament.

I carefully noted with confusion and disappointment that you voted against all three SOPs that would have provided the child involved in an abortion at least some protections, including (1) to require appropriate care be given to babies born alive after botched abortions, (2) to require abortions procedures ensure the child over 20 weeks does not feel pain—so we at least treat unborn humans as well as animals, and (3) to require abortions over 20 weeks only happen in extreme circumstances.

I can only hope your motivation for voting against these amendments was to make the bill as extreme as possible so it has a better shot and being smacked down at the third reading or in a referendum. I implore you to vote this bill down.

The justification provided for removing abortion from the Crimes Act and to a healthcare framework is that women should not technically be seen as criminals for obtaining an abortion. However, as I’m sure you’re aware, obtaining an abortion is not a crime in NZ. Rather, providing an abortion—without meeting the specified criteria— is the crime. It has been noted before that no woman in NZ has ever been prosecuted for obtaining an abortion. Indeed, it would be unlawful to prosecute a woman for obtaining an abortion through the regulated abortion service providers. This is assured by the The Crimes Act 1961, section 183.2.

So the justification used for the update is a smokescreen. That’s enough I think to assign this legislation to the trash can of bad ideas. It is incumbent upon those who wish to make a change to provide the justification for it. Two possible alternative motivations for the change occur to me.

One reason might be to update the law so that it is aligned to the realities of current practice. However, the realities of current practice are the lawful activities carried out by Doctors. The claim the current legislation is not fit-for-purpose is made entirely suspicious by the lack of litigation and the fact the bill goes far beyond its mandate, effectively making abortion on-demand up until birth permissible.

Also, the realities of current practice are informed by the almost sixty years (since the Crimes Act) of scientific advances in the field of embryology, foetal sonography and care for the prematurely born, all of which emphasise both the humanity of the unborn and how unnecessary it is to cause the death of a feotus during the late stages of pregnancy. Let the child be born early and alive! In Australia a baby born at 24 weeks gestation has a 50% chance of survival, while in Japan a child reaches this same chance at survival at 22.5 weeks. So any update of the law should move in a more conservative direction, which preserves human life instead of permitting its destruction.

Another motivation for change might be to adjust the law to eliminate social stigmas: “a woman should not be made to feel as though she were a criminal.” However, this is not law’s role. Making people feel good or bad is the domain of social media, the arts and entertainment. Politics is not there to protect people’s feelings. Rather, it’s there to protect people’s lives and improve the lot of all its citizens. Woe be it said that in the attempt to secure the former (the protecting feelings part) it fails at the latter (the protecting and improving lives part).

I have other serious concerns about this bill, such as the quashing of the right of medical practitioners to conscientiously object, and the need of a referendum should the nature of “healthcare” in NZ change, but respecting your time I will not elaborate further on those concerns here.

Thank you for your careful consideration. Again I ask you vote against this bill.

Stuart McEwing


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