Family Planning Association's charity status comes under fire

MARIKA HILL
Last updated 05:00 27/01/2013

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Anti-abortionists are taking aim at the charity status of the Family Planning Association in their latest assault against women and pro-choice organisations.

Pro-choice groups have labelled Right to Life's ongoing grudge-match as tiresome and time-wasting.

The Charities Commission confirmed it received a complaint regarding the Family Planning Association's charity status, but was yet to decide whether to investigate.

Family Planning Association chief executive Jackie Edmond said she's confident the organisation meets the legal requirements of a charity.

"We're not concerned it will impact on our charity status. It's just tiresome and a distraction."

Right To Life had also complained to the Government about the association's funding, she said.

"The biggest concern for me is it makes people nervous to address the real issues because a small number of people are very vocal," Edmond said.

"It makes government officials nervous about moving positively forward on things like abortion law reform."

Edmond had directed staff not to react to Right to Life's ongoing stabs against the organisation.

Right To Life has taken its battles to the ombudsman, Supreme Court and government officials in the past year.

The latest strike came on the 40th anniversary of the United States Roe v Wade court ruling that allowed American women the right to abortion.

A lobby group for abortion rights used the January 22 anniversary to call for debate on decriminalising abortion in New Zealand. Right To Life president Ken Orr released a counter statement deploring abortion: "This is a day of infamy that opened the floodgates of hell."

Abortion Law Reform Association president Morgan Healy said although she accepts Right To Life has a right to free speech, she hoped they annoyed rather than convinced people.

"We don't see the necessity to hound public officials by constantly sending out complaints and scathing attacks on people."

Healy said she can't understand the group's vendetta against the Family Planning Association, which is dedicated to men's and women's sexual and reproductive health.

Orr said the Family Planning Association breached its charity status by lobbying the Government to decriminalise abortion.

Right To Life was not attacking people but the organisation's ideology, he said.

The Department of Internal Affairs, which oversees the Charities Commission, confirmed the complaint had been received.

"We are assessing the information, and if we find any potential cause for concern, will investigate further," a spokeswoman said.

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The department could not put a time frame on the investigation.

The charity status of an organisation can be stripped if the organisation is deemed to be a political lobby group.

Hostilities between the pro-choice and pro-life camps were further strained when a new abortion clinic opened in Invercargill.

Police became involved when the abortion law reform campaigners received a threat after speaking out against the protesters' plans to name and shame staff at the abortion clinic.

A police investigation was unable to determine who sent the threat.

- Sunday Star Times

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