Abortion - a matter of life and death

Abortion News 3

Abortion Battle Back

22 December 1999.

The Government says New Zealand's current abortion laws are not working satisfactorily and it intends to review them.

The decision is bound to generate a new political battleground for the Government, as the anti-abortion lobby fights to prevent any easing of the abortion laws.

The Government's decision, announced by Minister of Justice, Phil Goff, followed the 1999 Report of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, which expressed its frustration that the Government and Parliament had repeatedly ignored its recommendations.

"The truth is that current practice on abortion bears little relationship to the intention of legislators back in 1977 when the law was passed. The law has also failed to keep pace with technological changes," said Mr Goff.

"It is also clear that the existing law has failed to have any effect on reducing the number of abortions, which have nearly trebled since 1980."

The Minister said it was desirable that there be consistency between the law governing abortions and the practice.

"It is highly questionable whether the requirement for certifying consultants and the annual expenditure of $2.7 million on fees for these consultants serves any positive purpose," he said.

The money would be better spent on contraceptive education and provisions to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Mr Goff would be recommending to Cabinet that the Abortion Supervisory Committee should be reviewed, and legislation drawn up which, if passed, would give effect to its recommendations.

Any vote on abortion legislation would be a conscience issue for Members of Parliament.

However, the Government's actions are likely to quickly become contentious. In particular, the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC), which is substantially influenced by the Catholic Church, is likely to wage a vigorous campaign against what it could see as an easing in the accessibility of abortion.