The proposed changes to abortion law will allow abortion on demand, practically up to birth, discarding the rights of the preborn and denying their humanity, said Nathaniel Centre director Dr John Kleinsman.
Justice Minister Andrew Little announced on August 5 that the abortion law will be “modernised so it [abortion] is treated as a health issue rather than a crime”.
Dr Kleinsman said: “From a human and ethical point of view, the changes being signalled constitute a significant departure from the current law, enacted in 1977.
Notwithstanding the way in which it may have been interpreted, the law, as it stands, provides for statutory
protection of unborn human life, even though it qualifies this protection by balancing it against pregnant woman’s right to seek a lawful abortion in certain medical circumstances.”
The proposed law change, he said, is “only about the ‘right’ to an abortion”, doing away with the “tension” between the woman’s needs and rights of the unborn child.
“In effect, there is no longer any requirement to consider the rights of the unborn child — it basically removes those rights, rights which arise out of a shared humanity and which are inalienable,” Dr Kleinsman said.
“If we are going to have a robust debate about our abortion laws, we should be honest about what we are doing. That includes using language that acknowledges that a human life is at stake and that abortion, whatever
you might think about it, is a procedure that ends a human life — full stop. There are always at least two human lives involved,” he said.
“At the same time, we acknowledge the human complexities associated with choosing an abortion. It is a fact that, too often, a woman has an abortion because
afraid of the poverty, shame, lack of support and isolation. While we resolutely advocate for the rights of unborn children, we must also keep to the fore the desperation that many parents find themselves in and
seek to establish remedies,” Dr Kleinsman added.
“Many Catholic organisations and others are there to support families, including mothers alone with children. We recognise the dignity of all lives involved,” he pointed out.
Under the current law, abortion is a crime unless two doctors agree that the pregnancy would put the woman in physical or mental danger (in most of the cases).
The proposed law removes this requirement for women who are pregnant for not more than 20 weeks, while women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant need to see only one doctor who will determine whether abortion is “appropriate”.
“This ‘test’ will undoubtedly make late-term abortions more accessible as it significantly lowers the bar for eligibility,” Dr Kleinsman said.
Voice for Life communications manager Bernard Moran said, “the baby now has no status whatsoever. He or she becomes ‘medical waste’ after the abortion”.
“Up until 14 weeks, abortions can be carried out by the suction method, but then the baby becomes too developed, so the dilation and evacuation method is used. This involves dismembering the baby and crushing the skull. The nurses then re-assemble the baby to ensure no tissue is left behind, that could cause dangerous infection,” Mr Moran explained.
Another provision questioned by VFL is one that will “enable a regulation-making power to set up safe areas around specific abortion facilities, on a case-by-case basis”.
Mr Moran said this means a ban on “sidewalk counselling up to 150 metres from a clinic or hospital”.
“Three volunteers belonging to our Napier branch have saved 37 babies when their mothers stopped to talk and were offered support.”
Without their presence, those babies would be dead, Mr Moran added.
Right to Life spokesperson Ken Orr called the bill an unprecedented attack on women and the unborn disguised as health care.
“Pregnancy is not a disease and abortion is not health care. This bill constitutes an increasingly lethal attack on the family, by attacking and killing its weakest and most vulnerable members, our unborn children,” Mr Orr said.
The bill also proposed the transfer of oversight of abortion services from the Abortion Supervisory Committee to the Ministry of Health.
The bill introduced by Mr Little was scheduled to have its first reading on August 8. It is being treated as a conscience issue. Members of the Parliament will be able to cast their votes independently at each stage of the bill’s progression.
“The bill has been carefully considered and we will be proposing that Parliament establish a special select committee to hear the public’s views. It is now a matter for Parliament and the public,” Mr Little said.