Complaint of misrepresentation of Ardern on abortion upheld

A complaint about misleading election advertising that misrepresented Jacinda Ardern’s views and Labour policy on abortion has been upheld by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

ODT (NZME): ASA rules Ardern Facebook ad misleading

A complaint against a sponsored Facebook post making it appear Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would end child poverty by having children aborted has been upheld.

The Make New Zealand Great Again Party posted a picture of Ardern on the social media website with the statement “My Labour Party will end child poverty through abortion. No children. No poverty”.

The statement was in quotation marks, which prompted a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Quotation marks made it seem as if Ardern had actually said those words, they said.

“[Ardern] has never made the statement that this picture attempts to say she has made.

“This misrepresentation of Jacinda Ardern is clearly factually incorrect and misleading to the viewers of the advertisement.”

The ASA’s complaints board ruled agreed, and said there was no evidence provided to support the impression made that Ardern was being directly quoted.

It breached three parts of the code of ethics and the complaint was therefore upheld by the board.

When advertisements are classed as advocacy, expression of opinion is allowed provided the expression of opinion is robust and clearly distinguishable from fact and the identity of the advertiser was clear.

The sponsored post for the Make New Zealand Great Again Party also said: “New Zealand Labour Party will literally kill child poverty! But remember they are all about ‘the children’, nothing about parental responsibility!”

There were other misrepresentations on abortion during the campaign. NZH on 11 September: Labour leader Jacinda Ardern tackles ‘smear campaign’ on abortion stance

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says she’s the victim of a deliberate misinformation campaign about her stance on abortion.

The question of where she drew the line was raised during her interview on this morning’s Newstalk ZB leaders breakfast segment with Larry Williams.

Family First NZ’s Bob McCoskrie asked if Ardern would personally endorse Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand’s preferred new law, based on a Canadian model that would seek to legalise abortion on demand up till birth.

Ardern did not shy away from the question but used it to clear up what she said had been misleading information about her views.

“There has been a huge amount of misinformation and my image has been used inappropriately with that misinformation.

“Yes I think abortion should come out of the Crimes Act. That does not mean for a moment that I am proposing what has been claimed, that you should be able to have on demand abortion till birth.”

What Ardern said she wanted was to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and have it put within a regulated context that made sure it was safe.

She categorically denied supporting abortion till birth.

“They have said till 40 weeks, which is wrong, which is wrong. We have time periods already set out in law, I’m not proposing changes to that. I’m proposing it comes out of the Crimes Act.”

Current abortion practices sidestep the law, but requires women (and girls) to make non-genuine statements of harm. And it doesn’t always allow abortions –  in the past decade close to 1500 women have been refused an abortion by the state.

Hundreds of “not justified abortion” certificates were handed out to pregnant Kiwi women in 2016.

Even as the overall abortion rate has trended down since 2010, the number of women told their abortion would not be “justified” has remained steady.

Abortion is technically a crime in New Zealand. Two certified medical practitioners must deem the abortion medically necessary or justified for it to be legal, but in practice the law is routinely subverted by both doctors and patients.

Last year, 252 “not justified abortion” certificates were issued. Close to 1500 have been handed out this decade.

Legal grounds to justify abortion include danger to physical or mental health of the mother and the possibility of having a mentally disabled child. Rape is not legally grounds for an abortion.

From a leaders’ debate on 4 September – Jacinda Ardern: Abortion ‘shouldn’t be a crime’

During the Newshub debate on Monday night, Ardern said she would change the law if she became Prime Minister.

“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,” said Ardern.

“I want women who want access to be able to have it as a right.”

More from Newshub: Abortion law-change would come down to conscience vote – Jacinda Ardern

On Tuesday, Ms Ardern told the AM Show a conscience vote, where MPs can vote based on their views rather than along party lines, would still allow MPs to keep their personal viewpoints.

“It will still be a conscience vote. We’ll draft the bill but, for instance, Bill English would still be able to vote with his conscience.”

She says she expects some of those within her own caucus would also oppose the bill, but thinks “there will be a majority of parliament that think, actually in 2017, women shouldn’t face being criminals for accessing their own rights”.

“That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have regulation that sits around it but we just don’t think it should be in the Crimes Act.”

Under current law abortion is a criminal act, except that women can obtain an abortion at under 20 weeks’ gestation under the following scenarios:

  • 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”.

It is time that the law was brought into line with common practice and supported the rights of those who become pregnant.

While abortions are fairly freely available in practice the number of them are decreasing.

NZH: Abortion rate drops to lowest in 25 years

The general abortion rate – abortions per 1000 women aged 15-44 – was 13.5 per 1000 women in 2016, down from 14.2 in 2015.

Statistics NZ reported that the abortion rates for younger women have fallen significantly in recent years whereas the rate has stayed the same for older women.

Women aged 20-24 have more abortions than any other age group, accounting for about 28 per cent of abortions in 2016.

However, the abortion rate for women in this age group dropped from a peak of 41 abortions per 1000 women in 2003, to 21 per 1000 in 2016.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said the drop was partially due to the increase in women using long acting reversible contraception like the implant and the IUD. They were more effective as they weren’t as exposed to human error.

She also thought youth were getting good access to sexual education information and services and choosing to wait longer before their first sexual experience which helped reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Abortion by the numbers

  • ​In 2016, there were 12,823 induced abortions, 332 fewer than the previous year.
  • Nearly 18 % of known pregnancies ended in an abortion.
  • The highest recorded abortion ratio was in 2003, with 25% known pregnancies ending in abortion.
  • Most abortions, 64%, were a woman’s first abortion and 57% of abortions were performed before the 10th week of the pregnancy.

So reforming the abortion laws would be timely and looks unlikely to result in an increase in the number of abortions.