Friday 25 January 2013

Update - if you are looking for resources to access abortion in New Zealand, click here.

It's sometimes easy to forget that abortion is illegal in New Zealand. It's pretty accessible, at least for people I know, who tend to be middle-class and urban. That's not the case when you move out of the city, or, for that matter, income bracket.

I've never been pregnant, but I've been having this argument for a while. I remember being seventeen and talking with the Christian group from school. We were all as idealistic as only seventeen year olds can be. They insisted that abortion is always wrong. Always. Even when the mother cannot afford to keep the child (as if there are no social or financial implications of carrying a pregnancy to term). Even in cases of rape (they argued, "the rape is not the child's fault." The law is on their side here - rape is not a legal grounds for abortion in New Zealand.). Even in cases of incest ("God will have a plan for that child." I asked - what if the plan is abortion? thereby ending the conversation.)

They held their beliefs strongly - and that's why we need to lobby to change the law. People like my erstwhile pals make accessing abortion difficult, in small towns, in conservative families and communities, and increasingly, in entire regions.

Anti-choicers seem to have the opinion that the people having abortions are sluts who choose them as birth control. Actually, nearly half of people seeking an abortion are already mothers. To suggest that a parent doesn't know the implication of having a child is arrogant at best.

What can we do? We can talk about this. Most New Zealanders are not aware that abortion is illegal. We're doing that now. We can also write letters.

I wrote out the form letter below (a lot of the content is lifted directly from ALRANZ), and took it along to feminist drinks. We meet monthly at the bar, and mainly bask in the safe space and support: this is the first vaguely political thing we've managed to do.

There were about ten of us there that night - we filled in 46 letters, taped them shut, spilled beer on them, blotted it off, and posted them off. We were all rather proud of ourselves.

I made a list of people you might like to send them to:

  •        Sue Moroney – Labour Spokesperson for Women's Affairs
  •        Hon Jo Goodhew – National Spokesperson for Women's Affairs
  •        Bill English – Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Leader of the National Party
  •       John Key
  •       Your MP –

    • Auckland Central - Kaye, Nikki - National Party
    • East Coast Bays - McCully, Murray - National Party
    • Epsom -  Banks, John - ACT New Zealand
    • Mangere - Sio, Su'a William - Labour Party
    • Manukau East - Robertson, Ross - Labour Party
    • Manurewa - Wall, Louisa - Labour Party
    • Maungakiekie - Lotu-Iiga, Peseta Sam - National Party
    • Mt Albert - Shearer, David Labour Party
    • Mt Roskill  -  Goff, Phil  - Labour Party
    • New Lynn -  Cunliffe, David Labour Party
    • North Shore  -  Barry, Maggie  -  National Party
    • Northcote  -  Coleman, Jonathan - National Party
    • Pakuranga - Williamson, Maurice - National Party
    • Papakura - Collins, Judith - National Party
    • Rodney - Mitchell, Mark - National Party
    • Tamaki - O'Connor, Simon - National Party
    • Tamaki Makaurau - Sharples, Pita - Maori Party
    • Waitakere - Bennett, Paula - National Party

And printed parliment's address on the reverse of the paper.

Parliament Buildings
Wellington 6160

All the group had to do, was pick a name, write it in the salutation and over the address, and sign.

This is the letter. Feel free to use it.


I am writing to urge you to consider the decriminalisation of abortion.

New Zealand women do not yet have the right to choose to end an unwanted pregnancy: that decision is made for them by certifying consultants. More than 98% of all abortions performed in New Zealand are approved under the mental-health ground. This is proof that the current law is not working, and urgently needs changing.

As well as being outdated, costly and ineffective, the law is hypocritical and demeaning to women. Abortion – even on mental health grounds – can be expensive and difficult to access, especially for rural women. Sexual violation is not a ground for abortion but only a matter which can be taken into consideration. It is a matter of discrimination that women are not entitled to make a decision on having an abortion. This is in violation of international treaties to which New Zealand is a signatory, especially the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

When the law was passed in 1977, politicians had a ‘conscience vote’ on abortion. I believe that New Zealand women deserve to make their own decision on abortion.   

I urge you to consider this matter and do what you can to move towards the decriminalisation of abortion.

Yours sincerely,