Ireland abortion vote puts New Zealand law to shame

Ireland has just resoundingly voted to modernise their abortion law, giving women the choice the should have.

This highlights New Zealand’s shameful persistence with law that is not fit for purpose to the extent that it is virtually ignored in practice, although it forces women into a demeaning process.

We should add abortion to the referendum list for next year, along with personal use of cannabis and euthanasia.

The last Government was not interested in addressing the abortion anomaly.

Abortion was not addressed in either the Labour-NZ First or Labour-Green governing agreements.

However Jacinda Ardern campaigned against the current law – Abortion ‘shouldn’t be a crime’ (September 2017):

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says abortion should not be in the Crimes Act and she would change the law.

Access to abortion is governed by the Crimes Act 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977.

“It shouldn’t be in the Crimes Act. People need to be able to make their own decision. People need to be able to make their own decisions. I want women who want access to be able to have it as a right.”

At the same time Bill English supported the law as it is but also supported a conscience vote:

Prime Minster Bill English, a conservative Catholic, said he supported the law as it was and he would be opposed to liberalisation. He described the current set-up, where a woman has to get a certificate from two separate medical professionals saying she needed an abortion, was “broadly acceptable” and was working.

However, English said it would be a “conscience decision”, so his MP could vote freely on it.

Why not let the people vote on it?

February 2018: Labour moves to legalise abortion

Andrew Little surprised observers today when he revealed that a draft referral on reforming New Zealand’s abortion law had been circulated to New Zealand First and the Greens. Little said today that he received a letter from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after the coalition was formed directing him to begin the process of reforming the law.

Once the two parties give feedback, the referral will be sent to the Law Commission to make a recommendation.

New Zealand is not just out of step with modern law, it is also out of step with modern practices.

New Zealand is an outlier among OECD countries for the time it takes to get an abortion and the way abortions are provided to patients.

In New Zealand, a patient must be referred to two specialists to sign-off on the abortion. If one refuses, the woman may need to find a third specialist. The average time from referral to procedure is 25 days.

In other countries the it can take just a week from referral to procedure. This makes it more likely for New Zealand patients to require a surgical, rather than a medical abortion, as they have passed the nine week mark.

In New Zealand, only 15 percent of abortions are medical abortions. By contrast, 62 percent of abortions in the UK are medical abortions and 45 percent of abortions performed before nine weeks (two-thirds of the total number) in the United States are medical abortions.

Terry Bellamak, President of the Abortion Law Reform Association…

…said that she would like to see abortion wiped from the Crimes Act and the restrictive grounds for abortion abolished.

Currently, abortion can be granted on the grounds that the pregnancy is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother; that there is a substantial risk the child will be seriously handicapped; that the pregnancy is a result of incest; or that the woman is deemed to be “severely subnormal”.

Bellamak said she would like New Zealand’s law to be reformed along the lines of Canada.

“Canada has absolutely no abortion laws and no regulations around abortion. They simply trust women,” she said.

Andrew Little refused to give much detail on what reform might look like…

…but suggested it might be broader than taking abortion out of the Crimes Act.

“There are more issues than just what’s in the Crimes Act … it’s also the hurdles that have been put in the way of women who are faced with making that decision”.

The vote would be a conscience vote, meaning MPs would be given the ability to vote freely without following a party line.

Why not a people vote, in a referendum along with cannabis and euthanasia?

Ardern and Little support reform.

Greens have actively campaigned on reform: Abortion – it’s time to decriminalise

The Green Party supports the decriminalisation of abortion because we trust women to make decisions that are best for them and their whānau/family. We want to ensure equal access to all potential options are available to pregnant women.

We want to change the abortion laws because:

  • The fact that 99% of abortions are approved on ‘mental health’ grounds reveals the dishonesty of the current legal situation.
  • The time taken to see two consultants means abortions happen later in the pregnancy. This is more dangerous for the woman, and it makes it difficult to access medical abortions (those which are conducted using medicine rather than surgery), which can only be performed at under 9 weeks’ gestation.
  • Rape (sexual violation) is not grounds for abortion under NZ law.
  • To reduce the stigma and judgement that happens over the reasons a woman chooses to have an abortion (e.g. rape being seen as more justified grounds for abortion than poverty).
  • Abortion’s continuing criminal status helps reinforce geographical variations in access to abortion services.
  • The current laws are discriminatory towards people with disabilities.

We also want to change the presumption that currently exists within medical culture and wider society, encouraged by the wording in the legislation, that if there is a significant disability diagnosis then an abortion is assumed to be desirable.

While English supported an MP conscience vote on abortion Simon Bridges could be different. In February when he became National leader:

Bridges told Mediaworks abortion should be “rare, safe and legal and I think the emphasis there is on rare. I think that’s where the vast majority of New Zealanders are”.

If that’s his view I think Bridges is out of touch with new Zealand.

Vice have noted he: “Voted to appoint a doctor strongly opposed to abortion to the Abortion Supervisory Committee.”

In principle NZ First supports people deciding things by referendum. In March last year Tracey Martin pointed this out in Politically, Abortion change rests with NZ First so what does that look like?

What’s our view on abortion legislation?

Abortions should be safe, legal and rare.

We have a policy of citizen-initiated binding referendum, held at the same time as a general election – a policy we have had for 23 years – this is one of those issues for such a referendum. It should not be decided by temporarily empowered politicians but by the public.

We need a 12 to 18 month conversation around this issue and then let the people have their say.

Topics that we would be suggest be associated with this discussion would include: Moving the issue from the Criminal Act to the Health Act, ensuring women get the best possible advice, getting more research into “why” women find themselves needing to seek this service and how can we assist them to avoid having to seek this service.

It makes more sense to me to have a referendum a year before the election. It separates issues decided from the politics of general elections, and is a very good way of engaging the public in democracy.

 

Labour moves to legalise abortion

New Zeasland’s laws that cover abortion are a sham – they are effectively largely ignored, although they make women go through a demeaning process.

But they may soon be addressed by Parliament, something that’s long overdue. Past governments have chosen to sweep the sham under a big rug.

Newsroom: Labour moves to legalise abortion

Andrew Little surprised observers today when he revealed that a draft referral on reforming New Zealand’s abortion law had been circulated to New Zealand First and the Greens. Little said today that he received a letter from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after the coalition was formed directing him to begin the process of reforming the law. Once the two parties give feedback, the referral will be sent to the Law Commission to make a recommendation.

Abortion in New Zealand is a crime under the Crimes Act, although the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act of 1977 allows a woman to have an abortion if she meets certain criteria and proves her need to two physicians.

Critics argue that the current legislation is out of date, inequitable, and the cause of unnecessary distress.

Currently, abortion can be granted on the grounds that the pregnancy is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother; that there is a substantial risk the child will be seriously handicapped; that the pregnancy is a result of incest; or that the woman is deemed to be “severely subnormal”.

In 1980, a medication called RU-486 was developed allowing non-invasive medical abortions to take place for the first time. In 1987, France became the first country to legalise medical abortions.

Thirty years later New Zealand still has unfit for purpose law.

New Zealand’s law, written three years before RU-486 was developed, stipulates that abortion must take place in a clinic. This provision, intended to prevent dangerous back alley abortions, means that patients must travel to the clinic twice, simply to take a pill. For patients in rural areas, this can be a long and expensive exercise.

Dr Christine Roke, National Medical Advisor to Family Planning, said the added steps were a barrier to best practice.

“It adds time and it adds cost,” said Roke.

New Zealand is an outlier among OECD countries for the time it takes to get an abortion and the way abortions are provided to patients.

In New Zealand, a patient must be referred to two specialists to sign-off on the abortion. If one refuses, the woman may need to find a third specialist. The average time from referral to procedure is 25 days.

In New Zealand, only 15 percent of abortions are medical abortions. By contrast, 62 percent of abortions in the UK are medical abortions and 45 percent of abortions performed before nine weeks (two-thirds of the total number) in the United States are medical abortions.

We are a long way behind the times on this.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed her personal view that should abortion be taken out of the Crimes Act so it is likely that this will form some part of the reform.

On Tuesday, Andrew Little refused to give much detail on what reform might look like, but suggested it might be broader than taking abortion out of the Crimes Act.

“There are more issues than just what’s in the Crimes Act … it’s also the hurdles that have been put in the way of women who are faced with making that decision,” he said.

The vote would be a conscience vote, meaning MPs would be given the ability to vote freely without following a party line. Reform is likely to be supported by the Prime Minister, liberal members of her party and the Green Party.

It would also require support from some NZ First and/or National MPs if it is to progress New Zealand abortion laws and practices into the 21st century.

 

Abortion law reform

This morning The Nation asked Is it time for abortion law reform?

The Nation has spoken to a number of women about their experiences. Some didn’t want to be identified.

The common theme is that seeking an abortion in New Zealand is a drawn-out process that adds stress and discomfort to an already fraught situation.

“It’s unnecessarily complicated, it’s out of date,” says Dame Margaret Sparrow, who has been advocating for abortion law reform for decades.

“I think it’s demeaning to women because women can’t make the decision for themselves – the decision has to be made by two certifying consultants.

“And also, I don’t think we need grounds for abortion – 98 percent are done on the grounds of mental health. I think that’s ridiculous.”

Under New Zealand law, abortion is a crime. But the law outlines a few scenarios where women can obtain an abortion at under 20 weeks’ gestation:

  • if the pregnancy is a risk to the physical or mental health of the mother
  • if there’s a substantial risk that the child would be “seriously handicapped”
  • if the child is a result of incest
  • if the women is “severely subnormal”.

Handicapped and subnormal are not terms you hear much any more.

The way abortion law works in practice in New Zealand is outdated and outlandish, demanding dishonesty from women seeking abortions as well as from doctors rubber stamping them – if the woman is lucky, otherwise it is degrading.

When a woman decides to seek an abortion, she first has to get a referral from her doctor. She has to undergo a number of tests, including an ultrasound.

She’ll see two doctors, called certifying consultants, who give the sign-off for the termination.

She’ll also be offered counselling. In some areas it’s compulsory.

Ms Ruscoe said for her, the process took a month.

“I had pretty much every side-effect it is possible to get. It made it really difficult to work, really difficult for me to keep it from people around me. Emotionally it was really difficult, it was stressful, it was pretty much the longest month of my life.”

For A, the process was similar.

“It was extremely tiring. It took every ounce of energy to be able to continue to just go through my day-to-day without letting everything go. That was hard.”

And a bad experience with a social worker made it much more difficult.

“It felt like I was at the mercy of everybody else and their opinions, and what they thought was best.

“It is my body and I made the best decision I could at the time and I don’t regret it.

The law needs to properly reflect modern public attitudes and practices. But MPs and parties don’t seem keen on doing anything about it.

But the Government says change isn’t necessary.

“We’ve made it quite clear it’s not something we’re planning to review at the moment,” said Minister of Justice Amy Adams.

“Our main concern is that the law is working as Parliament intended, and I haven’t’ seen any indication that that clumsy language is affecting its operation. That’s the critical thing for me.”

The whole way it operates is more than clumsy, it’s crazy – women just about have to claim they are crazy to get an abortion.

National isn’t the only political party apparently ducking for cover. The Labour Party wants a Law Commission review of abortion law, but justice spokesperson and deputy leader Jacinda Ardern declined to be interviewed for this story.

Her spokesperson says that’s because it’s a conscience issue rather than a party one.

That is, doesn’t want to do anything about it.

The Greens and ACT support decriminalising abortion. The Green Party’s Jan Logie says changing the law isn’t a topline priority, but it’s a fundamental human rights issue.

“When we have a law that is being loosely interpreted, we can feel grateful but we can’t feel secure. I really think that is another call for us to act and make sure our law reflects what we want.”

‘Not a topline priority’ means they won’t do anything about it. That’s a political way of appearing to support something but not doing anything.

The national government won’t do anything, and no one else is trying to do anything about.

There are no current Members’ Bills in the system on it.

Women are poorly served by their Parliamentary representatives on this.

 

 

 

 

Suicide reporting and discussion

New Zealand has laws that severely restrict what can be reported and publicly discussed about suicide, in part at least to try to eliminate copycat suicides and prompting suicides.

But an alarming suicide rate continues:

  • 2007-08: 540
  • 2008-09: 531
  • 2009-10: 541
  • 2010-11: 558
  • 2011-12: 547
  • 2012-13: 541
  • 2013-14: 529
  • 2014-15: 564

On top of that there are many unsuccessful attempts at suicide.

Stuff: New Zealand suicide reporting laws due to change, here’s what you need to know

Some experts say our laws aren’t strict enough and the word “suicide” shouldn’t even be mentioned in the public domain due to fears of contagion, or copycat suicides.

Others say the law shouldn’t gag those who want to tell their stories.

In some cases, parents, siblings and spouses of suicide victims want talk about what happened to them and their loved ones in the hope it will stop others going through the same thing.

New Zealand’s laws are currently undergoing changes but there is no suggestion the criminal law will be scrapped anytime soon.

Currently:

The Coroner’s Act 2006 restricts reporting or publicly discussing individual suicides.

Any person, including the media, cannot make public the details of a self-inflicted death.

As the law stands, it is also illegal to say a death is a suicide or suspected suicide until the coroner has ruled suicide as the cause of death.

If the coroner’s investigation finds the death to have been self-inflicted, only the deceased person’s name, address, occupation, and the fact of the coroner’s finding of suicide, may be published.

The coroner may make exemptions if they consider the reporting of the details is unlikely to be detrimental to public safety and there is sufficient public interest.

But:

Those on both sides of the fence agree the current laws are not fit for purpose.

Some believe the criminal laws should be abolished in favour of reporting guidelines, which could make the media answerable to their relevant disciplinary body – either the Press Council or the Broadcasting Standards Authority in New Zealand.

Others, including researcher Annette Beautrais and the Mental Health Foundation stand firm on their belief of the need for legal restrictions.

Wellington lawyer Graeme Edgeler says the laws are outdated and ignored.

People, especially suicide bereaved, should not have to worry about facing criminal prosecution for talking about the suicide of their loved ones, Edgeler says.

I agree with Edgeler. Gagging grieving family and friends seems bizarre.

I think the starting point should be allowing free speech and that should only be restricted if credible research shows that it would be likely to be damaging.

Who the law applies to (pretty much everyone apart from coroners):

The law applies to the public, bereaved family and friends, mainstream media and social media.

The restrictions apply to any public discussion, broadcast or report.

The law doesn’t stop people who want to have private discussions about suspected suicides or suicides in private – whether that be over the phone, over the internet or face-to-face.

But:

No-one in New Zealand has ever been prosecuted or fined for breaching these legal restrictions in the Coroners Act.

Changes are currently being considered in Parliament.

The Coroners Amendment Bill is currently before the house.

A Justice and Electoral Select Committee report on the amendment bill says the media don’t always comply with the current restrictions, and have developed terms of innuendo that hint at suicide – like “no suspicious circumstances” or “the death has been referred to the coroner”.

The proposed changes would mean media and suicide bereaved could publicly refer to a death as a suspected suicide before a coroner rules on the cause.

The bill seeks to narrow reporting restrictions to the details most likely to lead to copycat behaviour, according to the select committee report.

As it stands, the bill would prohibit reporting the method of a suicide, or the site if it suggests the method, unless the chief coroner has granted an exemption.

The select committee also extended the restrictions on reporting suicides to overseas deaths, and historical deaths.

One obvious problem is that by prohibiting public discussion suicide prevention and support are difficult.

Another problem is that assumptions of suicide can be left unchallenged. This happened with someone I know, the coroner found that the death was not suicide but rumours circulated that it was.

Suicide could be inferred (and hinted at in social media) that it was suicide, but because details were kept secret the truth couldn’t be revealed.

WHERE TO GET HELP

  • The Mental Health Foundation’s free resource and information service (09 623 4812) will refer callers to some of the helplines below:
  • Lifeline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 354
  • Depression Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 111 757
  • Healthline (open 24/7) – 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans (open 24/7) – 0800 726 666
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Youthline (open 24/7) – 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • 0800 WHATSUP children’s helpline – phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at www.whatsup.co.nz.
  • Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
  • Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
  • Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) – 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

 – Stuff

Macskasy: “innocent until proven otherwise”

Frank Macskasy is a stalwart at The Daily Blog. Yesterday in response to comments he said:

So, Jollo, the guy has been charged – but not convicted of any offence?

Does the term “innocent until proven otherwise” mean anything to you?

And:

Does the term “innocent until proven otherwise” mean anything to you?

I don’t determine a person’s guilt. That’s up to a court of law.

Or does several hundred years of jurisprudence meant nothing to you – especially when a “leftie” is involved? Hmmm, I thought you Right-wingers were big on Law & Order?

But he has different standards when it suits him, like in this post John Key: Profile of a trichophiliac.

There is nothing wrong, per se, in having a harmless hair fetish. Many in the population have fetishes – another example of the wide spectrum of human nature and sexuality.

Where the problem arises is when Key has harassed a cafe worker, and is also seen to have some sort of proclivity to touching other peoples’ children’s hair.

This is just not acceptable.

It must stop, or the Prime Minister must step down and seek professional help.

Meanwhile, the consequences of Key’s actions – if he doesn’t resign in disgrace – will be long-lasting. Just one implication of his behaviour, as I outlined in this letter-to-the-editor of The Dominion Post;

.

from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>
date: Thu, Apr 23, 2015
subject: Letter to the editor

.
The editor
Dominion Post

.
Every parent in the country will now be keeping a wary eye on John Key whenever he’s around their kids or daughters…

I’m sure teachers will be hovering around in the background, along with journos and photographers. The moment he touches a kid’s hair, a dozen cameras will be going off like machine guns…

For the rest of his career, people’s eyes will be on him – and not in a good way.

.

-Frank Macskasy

It would appear that Macskasy’s standards of evidence and proof of guilt are different when demanding the Prime Minister resign are concerned.

That’s not a one off. For example: Are Cameron Slater and Judith Collins bare-faced liars?

“It appears that Collins has attempted to hide her Facebook tracks”

“It appears that Slater and Collins are being pathetic in their attempt to be ‘cute’”

Conclusion

It is simply not remotely credible that Collins and Slater did not converse via Facebook.

I’m not sure that Collins has been found guilty yet.

And somewhat ironically following his conclusion:

There must be something truly awful in the works if the Nats are expending so much effort to smear an anonymous leaker.

The propaganda mill has just be churned into over-drive.

Macskasy is also active in comments.  Like:

CLEANGREEN says:

Gobsmackinglly good tight critique of this cum Carpetbagger slimy operator.

The MSM orchestrated & carefully painstakingly massaged the PM’s “façade” or image as a friendly bloke the traitors.

This was never his real manner, which on any occasion in Parliament he displays everything else but this character which Key has carefully cultured since he was playing monopoly with his sister as he was cheating her at the same time.

No this man is a product of the far right and manicured to because “Our smiling assassin” by the Global elite at the Bilderberg “Club” he frequents just to rob our country of all our assets for them as they are doing to NZ and eyeing up Greece next.

Thanks for the laughter you engendered as I read this great piece of work Frank.

Who needs evidence? He thanks for Cleangreen for the compliment without any reference to the claimed MSM conspiracy theory and the Bilderberg  conspiracy theory. Funny.

Do everyone a favour and prosecute Goff

Phil Goff has admitted to what appears to be an illegal act – he leaked parts of a report given to him confidentially in advance of it’s official release by the Inspector-General for Intelligence. His apparent motive was to put his selected bits of the story into a favourable light.
Goff has a history of being involved in significant leaks. He – like other politicians – leak because they can get away with it. In this case Goff seems to have blatantly ignored the law, assuming impunity.

For the good of our democracy the Police should prosecute Goff. It’s time a stand was made against MPs breaking the law when it suits them.

Prosecuting Goff would do our democracy a huge favour. It would make it clear that MPs are not above the law.

It would also do the National Government a favour, but that’s simple collateral benefit.

And it would do Labour a favour if it prompts Goff to either resign from Parliament or stand down at the last election. He seems to be well past his political used by date.

It would be a major snub for Goff and he would probably feel bitter about it but it would also probably do him a favour and get him out of politics. He seems jaded by accumulated bitterness, so a little more bitterness won’t hurt much.

MPs should set an example and abide by the law, and if not they should be made an example of. Goff is as deserving as any for making a stand against MPs who ignore the law.

It would do everyone a favour. Especially our democracy.

Surrogacy – The parent trap

By Jaslecta

The parent trap-Sunday looked at the complications around surrogacy

Surrogacy is often a last resort for couples that can’t conceive.  It is legal to use a surrogate in NZ, however it is not legal to pay for the service.  The expectations on a surrogate are enormous so why not reimburse them for all the time spent nurturing your baby?

As of now parents have no rights from the moment the embryo is implanted, the father is considered a sperm donor only.

“In private arrangements the child is always genetically related to the surrogate mother.”

The baby is genetically the surrogate’s even if both the egg and sperm are form the prospective parents or other donors.  This is the law if the surrogate arrangement was a private one.

If it is done through an IVF clinic parental rights are determined on a case by case basis.  Please follow the link below.

http://www.nzlii.org/nz/other/nzlc/pp/PP54/PP54-4_.html#Heading1208

It seems we need a new law clearly stating that the prospective parents are given the legal parental status for the child from the moment of its birth.  If everyone is clear on this from the outset this could solve much unnecessary heart ache and misunderstandings.

Variations to marriage age

Surprising to see this change in marriage law in Spain:

Legal age for marriage raised in Spain

The legal age for marriage is being raised in Spain.

At the moment, people as young as 14 can get married in Spain. The minimum age is being raised to 16, in an effort to protect minors from sex abuse.

Interesting to see the variations in marriage ages around the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriageable_age

They range mostly between 15 and 21, with some countries having different ages with parental consent, and many having a younger marriage age for females. There’s also some leniency for younger ages.

Indonesia: 19 for males and 16 for females. Marriage at younger ages is legal with parental consent

There are many variations to marriage law around the world.