Staying the course on abortion in New Zealand


Abortion. The very word in a medical context or a religious context is enough to provoke a very emotive, not necessarily properly informed, and sometimes deliberately misleading debate. And yet, at the same time, there is no doubt regardless of which side of the debate one is on, it cuts right to that most fundamental, most inalienable right – to that of life. I deliberately sit on the fence here. Not because I have no empathy or heart, but because to make an accurate assessment of the issue without being partial to one aspect or another, one needs to be remote.

It has been commented many times over that very often the people making the moral calls about abortion in places of authority such as Government ministries or in churches are men with no understanding of the biological changes a woman must experience in the course of pregnancy. It is possibly the most profound thing a woman will have happen to their body. They have no understanding of the medical hazards a woman who is pregnant must navigate through successfully to give birth. Or they DO have the understanding, but either their individual principles or – if they are working for a Government ministry – political ideology or other indoctrination.

In New Zealand abortion is legal in cases where the physical or mental health of the woman is in danger, or the fetus could be handicapped. Cases of sexual violation are considered, but are not grounds in themselves for abortion.

There have been some unfortunate cases where women have died in countries where abortions are totally outlawed because they could not have a procedure that would have saved their lives and perhaps allowed them to have a healthy child at a later point. Unfortunately countries such as Ireland, El Salvador, to name a couple have prohibitive laws that completely fail the women of those countries. In Ireland the procedure is illegal unless it is performed to save the life of the mother. In El Salvador it is completely illegal, despite heavy campaigning by human rights activists in 2014.

The abortion issue at large could be reduced substantially if old notions of abstinence were put aside in favour of good neutral education. As high school social studies courses examine issues such as narcotics and alcohol, and as this is the time when some students (illegally if under the age of 16)start to become sexually active, this would be an appropriate stage to introduce it. I do think that the numbers of abortions could be reduced. However making it illegal, frowning on those who need it, frowning on contraceptive measures as governments, religious institutions and – for lack of a better word – commentators are prone to doing achieves nothing other than pushing underground abortions. It would simply see back street abortions and misleading information being given out by non-qualified personnel.

In New Zealand the likelihood of abortion laws being changed to make abortion illegal as happened in El Salvador is low. So is the militancy that exists in other countries such as the United States, where abortion clinics have been bombed in an attempt to make a statement against abortion. An act of this nature is just about medical terrorism.

On the whole I see little problem with the current law, though cases of sexual violation since the woman did not ask for the sexual connection that started the pregnancy, should be grounds for abortion as well.

 

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