Forcing teenagers to tell parents of abortions would have dire results
Karl du Fresne suggests the Care of Children Act 2004, which allows pregnant teens to seek abortion without notifying their parents, be changed to enforce parental notification.
He calls it a "modest request" (Politicians will run a mile, but our abortion laws encourage deceit, September 4).
It isn't remotely modest. First, at age 15 and under, there is no practical difference between parental notification and parental consent, because parents have a high degree of physical control over their under-16s. This means parents could force their teens to become mothers. This has happened in the United States.
Second, the law change is unnecessary because the vast majority of pregnant teens tell their parents. All counseling bodies involved with teens encourage it. The teens who don't tell fall into two categories: those who fear physical and mental abuse, and those who are ashamed of disappointing their parents.
If the law is changed the first group will suffer harm, assault, homelessness, and even death so that the second group can enjoy the benefit of being forced to acknowledge their parents still love them. The benefit does not outweigh the harm.
Third, if teens no longer enjoy medical confidentiality, research from the United States has shown they will stop seeking medical care.
Du Fresne attributes unwillingness to change the law to political cowardice, but it's more likely common sense. No one wants to see newborns in dumpsters or in sewers, or teens in prison for infanticide.
No one wants to see teens poisoning themselves with abortion drugs procured from unreliable sources, or throwing themselves down stairs trying to induce miscarriage.
This is also the reason New Zealand's abortion law contradicts abortion practice: no one wants to see women bleeding to death from unsafe, illegal abortions.
If New Zealand enforced the law, Parliament would have to change the law or deal with the death and suffering strict enforcement would cause. So they pretend the contradiction does not exist.
And finally, du Fresne cites a 2008 University of Otago study suggesting that women who have abortions experience mental illness at higher rates.
This study has been criticised for its methodological flaws.
Better peer-reviewed longitudinal studies published in 2015 demonstrate that while some abortions are emotionally difficult, most are not, and the factors that make abortion difficult relate not to the procedure but to the stigma associated with abortion in the patient's community.
They further show that 99 per cent of women do not regret their abortions, believing they made the right choice even three years later.
The Kieft family, whose case du Fresne cites, may have had a terrible experience with the healthcare system.
At the select committee hearing, Hillary Kieft said she had not filed a complaint with the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner about the treatment her daughter received.
The commissioner can investigate the case and get to the bottom of what happened. The commissioner can also make recommendations that would improve the experience of other families in similar situations.
That would be the way to ensure any mistakes that may have occurred do not occur in future. I hope the Kiefts take their complaint to a forum that can actually help.
Terry Bellamak is president of the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ).
- The Dominion Post