Abortion no crime, say Greens

KATIE KENNY
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2014

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The Greens have ratified a policy on abortion, which would get rid of a process a certified consultant says is "perfectly workable".

Abortion is a crime under the Crimes Act, and is legal only if two consultants agree that the pregnancy would seriously harm the woman's physical or mental health, or that there is a substantial risk the child would be born seriously disabled.

The Greens want abortion removed from the crime statutes, saying it would reduce stigma and judgment surrounding the procedure. This would mean a woman seeking one would not need external approval.

"The Green Party trusts women to make decisions that are best for them and their whanau/family," women's spokeswoman Jan Logie said.

Christchurch certifying consultant Dr Pippa Mackay said her professional opinions were neutral, but she found the current law to be "perfectly workable".

"For women who feel that continuing their pregnancy would jeopardise their mental health, abortion is readily available," she said. "Where I work, all women have counselling before they see us. They have determined themselves that pregnancy will be injurious to their mental health.

"We [certifying consultants] can agree or not. By the time they've seen the counsellor, and been supported by their referring doctor, most of us would agree.

"Essentially, women have to see three doctors and a counsellor. So there are some hoops. But the hoops are not held high, as it were. They're not trying to block people, they're trying to be sure that people fit within the law we've got now."

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond agreed with the Greens' policy. "The language of the policy, in terms of trusting women to make good decisions for themselves and their families, is one that resonates."

Family First NZ rejected the Greens' call, saying the existing safeguards were there to protect women and children.

"Along with protecting the rights of the unborn child, we need to protect the rights of women and young girls to know the medical facts in order that they can make fully informed de cisions," spokeswoman Marina Young said. "The current safe guards are a small step towards that."

Statistics from 2012, the latest available, showed 14,745 abortions were carried out in New Zealand, the lowest number since 1995. The median age of women having an abortion was 25 years and in 62 per cent of cases it was the woman's first abortion. 

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