News Culture Comment Video

Feature

Trust women to decide: Greens

Tuesday 19th September 2017

The Green party has renewed its calls for abortion law reform, after a woman who was declined a termination considered suicide. 

 

Under the Crimes Act, an abortion must be approved by two licenced specialist doctors. 

Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Calls for abortion law reform in New Zealand have been renewed in the wake of a woman who considered suicide after being denied a termination. 

Kate*, a 28-year-old Auckland woman who has struggled with mental health issues, was devastated to discover that she was 18 weeks pregnant. 

Read Kate’s story here. 

Kate had been drinking heavily before learning she was pregnant, and was concerned a baby could suffer foetal alcohol syndrome if born. 

But she was denied an abortion by the Waitematā District Health Board, after her GP allegedly told a social worker from North Shore Hospital that Kate was not mentally ill.

As a result, Kate contemplated suicide.

The Green Party’s social development spokeswoman Jan Logie said Kate’s struggle reiterated the need for New Zealand’s abortion laws to be changed.

Currently, under the Crimes Act - a law passed in 1961, it is illegal for a woman to have an abortion, unless two licensed specialist doctors called certifying consultants have determined that continuing a pregnancy will put her physical or mental health at risk; that the child, if born, would be “severely handicapped”; if the pregnancy is the result of incest; or if the woman is “subnormal”.

But Logie said women needed to be trusted to make the right decisions for themselves and their families. 

“The law should reflect that trust,” she said. 

“This is a really clear call for us to change our laws, to provide more clarity, to ensure that all of our DHBs and health practitioners actually work on the basis of trusting women to make the right decision for themselves and their families - a decision that should be down to a woman, in partnership with a medical practitioner.” 

Because New Zealand’s abortion law is in the Crimes Act, it is overseen by the Ministry of Justice, rather than the Health Ministry. But in the past, calls for reform have been ignored by the National government. 

National’s justice spokeswoman Amy Adams said she was saddened and concerned that Kate had considered self harm or suicide. But she would not “question or comment on the clinical decisions of certifying consultants operating under the law”. 

“While the rate of abortions continues to decline, it is important that those who need an abortion are able to access one,” Adams said in a written statement. 

In July, Adams told The Wireless that New Zealand’s abortion law was working “broadly as intended” and there were no plans to reform or rework current legislation. 

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has not responded to specific questions from The Wireless about Kate’s experience.  

But in a Newshub Leaders Debate earlier this month she pledged to remove abortion from the Crimes Act. 

Ardern later said that MPs would be able to make a conscience vote on the issue - meaning politicians could vote based on their personal views rather than official party policy, meaning with a Labour government, law reform could not be guaranteed. 

*Kate chose to remain anonymous to protect her future child’s privacy. 

Where to get help:

Need to Talk? Free call or text 1737 any time to speak to a trained counsellor, for any reason.

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO (24/7). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.

Depression Helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)

Samaritans: 0800 726 666 (24/7)

Youthline: 0800 376 633 (24/7) or free text 234 (8am-12am), or email talk@youthline.co.nz

What's Up: online chat (7pm-10pm) or 0800 WHATSUP / 0800 9428 787 children's helpline (1pm-10pm weekdays, 3pm-10pm weekends)

Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754 (24/7)



Join the discussion »

Login to post a comment

Login or Signup


Comment

In accordance with our Comments Policy, all comments are moderated before they appear on the site. This happens 7am to 7pm each weekday.

Susan Strongman is an Auckland-based journalist at The Wireless. She is interested in social issues, human rights and people, but likes to spend her spare time with her cats.
Join the discussion

Discuss, comment and read comments about this article.

Share