13 Oct 2019
On Thursday 8 August at the New Zealand Parliament, the Abortion Legislation Bill passed its first reading and was sent for further deliberation and public consultation to a special Select Committee. Submissions closed on 19 September 2019. The Executive Summary of the joint submission prepared by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops and The Nathaniel Catholic Bioethics Centre is below:
1. We oppose the Abortion Legislation Bill.
2. Every pregnancy involves at least two lives – the mother and her unborn child. The proposed changes to the regulation of abortion, in so far as they remove any requirement to consider the rights of the unborn child, amount to a breach of New Zealand’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
3. The changes are presented as empowering women to make their own decisions without interference from the State or others. However, creating an altered regulatory regime that frames abortion as being solely about the well-being of the mother will potentially undermine women’s moral agency.
4. Looked at through a medical lens, abortion is distinct from all other medical procedures on at least two grounds: (i) it involves ending another human life; and (ii) the mother is vulnerable to various forms of coercion because of the interests of others and/or a lack of resources that would enable her to choose differently. Because of this, and in the interests of free and informed consent, it is entirely appropriate that the regulations surrounding abortion involve ‘additional layers’ of requirements not attendant on other medical procedures.
5. The proposed changes to the abortion law are actually a step backwards in terms of the stated aim to better align the regulation of abortion services with other health services. This is because they do not serve well the processes around providing full and informed consent.
6. If abortion is to be promoted as a choice in line with good healthcare practice, then women must be presented with all the information about other options and support services that make the choice to continue with a pregnancy a real one.
7. The provision of independent counselling should be seen as an integral part of the process of detecting coercion and giving free and informed consent, rather than some optional add-on.
8. As for other health services, the Ministry of Health, in consultation and collaboration with a wide range of appropriately qualified interested parties, should produce a written booklet that clearly lays out what is involved in an abortion, including the potential risks and consequences of an abortion and information about alternative options.
9. The proposed new law fails to uphold a robust concept of freedom of conscience rights and introduces a coercive element into employment relationships that will potentially place employees in an impossibly difficult situation.
A copy of the full submission can be found on the NZCBC website: www.catholic.org.nz.
The Nathaniel Centre was called on Tuesday 24 September 2019 to talk to the written submission on the proposed Abortion Legislation Reform made jointly by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and the NZ Catholic Bioethics Centre. Nathaniel Centre Director, Dr John Kleinsman, was accompanied by Julianne Hickey, Director of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand – the NZ Bishops Social Justice Agency. Their joint oral submission was streamed live through the Parliamentary Facebook page and can be found at www.facebook.com/alscnz/videos/2510904188948857/.
Their presentation is preceded by Voice for Life, followed by the New Zealand Medical Association, and begins 25.30 minutes into the stream. It is approximately 20 minutes long including Q & A time with the committee.
The Parliamentary Abortion Legalisation Select Committee will report back in February 2020 on submissions on the proposed Abortion Legislation Bill.
Published in WelCom October 2019