Dear New Zealand,
I believe that abortion is a health issue and not a crime. As the law currently stands women are not trusted to make their own decisions regarding a termination of a pregnancy – that responsibility lies with the two certifying consultants who verify whether or not a woman meets the four grounds as laid out in the Crimes Act. As a woman, and as a feminist this is not acceptable to me. I would like to think that this is in fact not acceptable to most people in this country. No woman should be forced to repeatedly visit doctors, to travel long distances to access a simply medical procedure and have to ‘prove’ to anyone that she is worthy of any reproductive service. It is demeaning and only helps to perpetuate a stigma around the issue which silences those who have had abortions.
This law was never a good one. Folding to anti-choice pressure, it was a political decision made the in the middle of the night, by dare I say it, a bunch of white, middle aged men who would never know what it is like to find himself faced with an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. This law has been allowed to fester for 33 odd years – becoming more anachronistic each subsequent year it is allowed to continue. It is only thanks to the medical profession and its holistic approach to mental health (the mostly commonly recorded ground upon which women are allowed abortions – 98% in fact) that women have been able to access good, safe medical services for so many years.
I do not believe anyone would want to see that change. Instead medical practitioners need to be given a greater role in the process, not in terms of decided upon which ground a woman can access a necessary procedure, but in being allowed to provide a wider range of techniques, especially with regard to early medication abortions.
So New Zealanders, if in reading through this your interest was piqued or you found yourself outraged, think about becoming involved in the movement to decriminalise abortion and to allow for greater access and availability of abortion on request. New Zealand cannot, nor should not, return to the years of coathangers and septic abortions, where women would go to any length, including death, to end a pregnancy. But do not deceive yourself either that there is only one way forward. Plenty of vocal anti-choice elements exist here and continue to threaten the precarious system through legal action.
These elements talk a lot about the sanctity of life and the moral responsibility that comes with being pregnant, but what if the most responsible decision is to not bring an unwanted child into the world. Isn’t it more important that we trust women to make these life changing decision for themselves?
I believe that this is a new era for reproductive rights in this country. That both women and men are tired of accepting a law that works for most. It is time that we trust women, giving them the right to autonomy over their own bodies. It is time for all of us pro-choice people to raise our voices in protest. To call on politicians to change this antiquated and harmful law. To build a movement that respects women, that sees them not as hormonal, overly emotional creatures, but human beings capable of making informed and responsible decisions for themselves. I call on everyone to stop and think about the issue of abortion today and to join with those of us fighting for a more just and equitable New Zealand.
Hope to see you all actively fighting for the cause soon,