I had an article published in the 18/May edition of CANTA, the magazine of the University of Canterbury Students’ Association. It was entitled NZ Abortion Law Under the Spotlight, and not surprisingly has received some interest from other students.
On 15 December 1977, the National Government passed the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Bill into law. The long title of the Act mentions that it was enacted “to provide for the circumstances and procedures under which abortions may be authorised after having full regard to the rights of the unborn child.”
This was designed to ban abortions in all but the most extreme cases. It established the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC), and laid out the grounds on which an abortion could legally be performed. The ASC selects a number of certifying consultants who assess women seeking to have an abortion. Two of these certifying consultants must then establish that the woman’s life or her physical or mental health is in serious danger before an abortion may proceed.
In 2007, 98.7% of the 18,382 certified abortions performed in New Zealand were approved on the grounds of the mental health of the mother being at risk. The vast majority of this figure actually represents “convenience-abortions”, since the mother’s health was not sufficiently endangered as to warrant an abortion under the law.
Indeed the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, Section 37 (2) states that an abortion is only justified if it “is immediately necessary to save the life of the patient or to prevent serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health”. The Crimes Act 1961, Section 182 (2) also states that the only exception where an abortion is justified is if it is “in good faith for the preservation of the life of the mother”.
In New Zealand, the number of pregnancies presenting a serious threat to the mother is under 1%. With approximately 78,000 known pregnancies in 2007, you would expect the number of abortions to have been around 780. Why then, were there over 18,000 abortions performed?
Click here to read the rest of the article. Because the outcome of the Court of Appeal case was so unexpected, the article had to be altered at the last minute, however the version that made it into CANTA was not the most recent one, and requires the following correction:
However in an unexpected turn of events, the Court of Appeal dismissed the case on Tuesday, determining that the original case should be re-heard in the High Court, saying the case was outside its jurisdiction. This will probably take place some time next year.
However in an unexpected turn of events, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of the ASC on Tuesday, saying the case was outside its jurisdiction. Right to Life and the ASC will return to the High Court at an early date, where they will seek to clarify the declaratory orders of Justice Miller. The original ruling by Justice Miller still stands, and the case will not need to be re-heard.