Today Parliament voted to appoint a new member, Dr Tangimoana Frances Habib of Hamilton as the third member of the Abortion Supervisory Committee. Dr Habib was recommended by the Minister of Justice, Hon Simon Power, as the Ministry has oversight over the composition of the Committee. The vote was confirmed only after Tariana Turia tried to assert her own anti-choice nomination, in the form of former SPUCer, Dr Ate Moala. Luckily this was voted down 41 in favour, 70 against. For names see:
However, this tiny moment in Parliamentary history, one that probably would have been ignored (or hardly mentioned) a few years ago, has attracted many people’s attention. I personally think it is important for two reasons:
The first relates to the strong position Labour MP Charles Chauvel took when he stood up to speak. He said that abortion was a health issue and not a crime – finally some honest, sensible comments. This very act signals that we (pro-choicers) are getting some where. Decision makers will act if there are enough people behind them actively and vocally seeking change. Yesterday’s blogswarm for World Health Day accentuates and gives voice to a growing movement that is tired of seeing women treated as little more than vessels for foetuses! It is high time we trusted women to make their own reproductive decisions and hopefully Chauvel (and Chadwick) are just the beginning of more pro-active political players in this space. [As a side note, for those that applaud Chauvel for being vocal on the issue, drop him a line, write on his Facebook wall or mention to a friend just how great it is to have him on our side.]
The second point I would make is that this vote in the House gives us a greater sense of where politicians stand on the issue. Lobbying will play a role in any national campaign for changing abortion laws and increasing access/availability. While that does not mean we should ignore those that we think are already pro-choice it does give us a sense of where further work needs to be done.
Today was just another opportunity for pro-choicers to get out there and discuss abortion in New Zealand. Every conversation, every blog and every Parliamentary moment gives us a chance to enhance people’s knowledge of the law and to engage people in a dialogue about the issue. Our time is now…. So get out there and get active!