post by Juliette
Aotearoa New Zealand’s current laws around abortion are ancient, and presents demoralising, dysfunctional, and sexist views of women. Abortion in New Zealand is represented as a crime, with limited exceptions to access, as it features in the Crimes Act 1961. The topic of abortion is a very controversial one, with heavy and alive debates that are concerned with weather to remove abortion from the crimes act and formally decriminalise it to make it a health issue as opposed to a criminal one. Other laws that regulate abortion in Aotearoa New Zealand are the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 and the Care of Children Act 2004. For a more in-depth account of these pieces of legislation see the law around abortion.
The topic of abortion, more specifically, a women’s right to freedom of choice and access to safe medical care, is something very close to my heart. And as an emerging social worker, I find myself to be an advocate for all women, past, present, and future, who are affected by abortion law in Aotearoa New Zealand. I wear different hats on this contentious topic of abortion law; the aspiring social worker, the scared teenage girl sitting across from the social worker, doctors, nurses and surgeon just prior to sealing my fate, and the dreamer of (what I like to call) my angel baby SJ, with my heart beating fiercely on my sleeve. Jumping through hoops for women requesting a termination involves finding two certifying consultants (who need to be registered through the Abortion Supervisory Committee) who can approve the abortion for reasons such as; saving the women’s life, preserving the mental and physical health of the mother, foetal impairment and in cases of incest. The certifying doctors are able to refuse the authorisation of the procedure in which case the women will need to find another doctor or two, and plead her case…again.
A society that supported women’s rights to choose is my goal. Views change, attitudes change, beliefs change, and sometimes, they stay the same and that is okay too. But just to be clear, pro-choice doesn’t necessarily mean we like abortions, we don’t all celebrate abortions like it’s Christmas. Going through with having an abortion is the biggest decision someone might make in their lifetime, it is agonised over for weeks, rivers of tears cried that eventually lead to falling asleep from exhaustion, the battle with radiology clinic staff that look you up and down when you arrive to your first ever ultrasound alone, and the day that it’s your turn, being called up like a number waiting for your take away dinner, right up to the tears that flood a women’s eyes on the table, feet in the stirrups, shaking, alone, with the lights and colours of the clinically sterile room all swirling together on the pain medication. And that’s just the beginning. Every woman deserves her dignity upheld.
So what is being proposed for New Zealand’s abortion law reform? Abortion Law Reform Association New Zealand (ALRANZ) are proposing to reform current outdated laws by modelling off Canadian abortion law, which includes abortion being treated as a safe and common medical procedure. This would mean no red tape, no bureaucracy to satisfy and no hoops to jump through. Most importantly, the reform is aiming at honouring bodily autonomy and moral agency of health care consumers. For a much richer insight into the proposal see ALRANZ
Share your thoughts and experiences on abortion in New Zealand, our community needs to hear from you, your voice matters.
ALRANZ. (2017). Abortion: Think New Zealand have the right to choose? Think Again. Retrieved from: http://alranz.org/
ALRANZ. (2017). How we propose to update New Zealand’s legislation on Abortion. Retrieved from: http://alranz.org/change-the-law/sample-legislations/
Kelly, L. (2017, 27 April). How Working In An Abortion Clinic Changed My Mind About Terminations. The Spinoff. Retrieved from: https://thespinoff.co.nz/parenting/27-04-2017/why-working-in-an-abortion-clinic-changed-my-views/\