The Abortion Supervisory Committee ASC) is a Government department, entrusted with keeping the abortion law (Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977) in New Zealand under review. Pro-life group Right to Life NZ appealed to the High Court for a review to be done on the ASC, and in mid-June 2008, the High Court’s ruling came back,
“The judgment found that “there is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants. Indeed the Committee itself has stated that the law is being used more liberally than Parliament intended” Justice Miller stated that ; “In my opinion , the statistics and the Committee’s comments over the years since the Court of Appeal made that observation do give rise to powerful misgivings about the lawfulness of many abortions. They tend to confirm Dr Forster’s view that New Zealand essentially has abortion on request.” The Court held that the Committee does in fact have the power to review and scrutinise the decisions of certifying consultants and to require them to keep records and question them on the use of the mental health ground to authorise 98% of the abortions in New Zealand.”
The relevant piece of law is Section 32 of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, which refers to Section 187A of the Crimes Act 1961, which in turn states,
Part (1) For the purposes of sections 183 and 186 of this Act, any act specified in either of those sections is done unlawfully unless, in the case of a pregnancy of not more than 20 weeks’ gestation, the person doing the act believes- (a) That the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger (not being danger normally attendant upon childbirth) to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl”
I am providing some background here, to clarify the significance of the ASC’s recent appeal to the High Court, over their ruling on the ASC’s application of the abortion law in New Zealand. The ASC is claiming that the Judge’s two key findings (1) “There is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants.”, and (2) “The approval rate [for abortions] seems remarkably high, bearing in mind that under section 187A the consultants must form the good faith opinion that continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the mother’s health.” are groundless.
However, it is obvious that the lawfulness of many abortions to date is doubtful, when you consider that 98% of abortions in New Zealand are authorised on mental health grounds. And so Right to Life is confident that the High Court will uphold its previous finding,
“Right to Life is confident that the Court of Appeal will uphold the judgment in respect to these important issues. It is the intention of Right to Life to cross appeal and re present our case denied in the High Court for the legal recognition of the status of the unborn child as a human being and a person endowed by its Creator with human rights, the foundation right being the right to life. Secondly there will be the opportunity to put before the Court of Appeal the issue which the Royal Commission considered important, whether abortion counsellors should be independent from abortion providers.”
I await the High Court’s response with interest. The short video below offers a succinct overview of the initial response of the High Court back in mid-June.
(hat tip, Big News)