There is a need to reframe the question around abortion so that women
with unintended pregnancies can be comprehensively and holistically supported, the Abortion Legislation Select Committee has been told.

This was the message of Nelson couple Dr Joseph and Cushla Hassan when they made their oral submission on October 15, 2019.

“We think that in trying to draft this new law, we started on the wrong foot and asked the wrong question,” Dr Hassan said.

“Rather than focusing on expediting abortion in New Zealand, we need to focus on what is actually lacking in the picture, which is comprehensive, holistic support for women facing unplanned pregnancy, an adequate provision for those for whom abortion is not actually their preferred option, for those who feel rushed and pressured into a choice they would otherwise not make,” Dr Hassan said.

The Hassans set up St Luke’s Health Centre, a Christian family health centre that offers all normal general practice services “while maintaining respect for life from conception to natural death” in Nelson 18 years ago. They drew their submission from the experiences they had in their practice.

Mrs Hassan is the clinical nurse manager at Crisis Pregnancy Support — Hapai Taumaha Hapūtanga, which is a key service offered by the centre.

She told the select committee that wrap-around services for women with unintended pregnancies would better respond to the needs of these pregnant women.

“An example of an area of urgent need is provision of adequate benefit funding for single mothers approaching delivery in the third trimester,” Mrs Hassan said.

Often, she said, a pregnant woman’s benefit would not even cover her rent.

“A service like ours is helping meet those basic human needs of food and electricity while she’s transitioning to make sure that she’s well set-up when
baby comes,” Mrs Hassan said.

Mrs Hassan also advocated a window of time for pregnant women to be able to unpack all that “makes up the crisis” so that they can make “a fully-informed, autonomous decision”.

Dr Hassan said pregnant women should be presented with feasible alternatives should they choose to continue with the pregnancy.

New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin was impressed with the Hassans’ submission and asked that a copy of what they presented be attached to their written submission.

“I happen to be of the view that no woman wants to seek this [abortion] service but find themselves in a situation where they require this service,”
she said.

“We do have to have a balance. And we’re here to discuss this part of the
conversation. And I think you’ve made a valuable contribution today to the other side of the conversation,” she said.

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