Decriminalising abortion would be discriminating against women

Anti-abortion protesters hold a vigil near Christchurch Hospital in 2016.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Anti-abortion protesters hold a vigil near Christchurch Hospital in 2016.

OPINION: Should the law protect the right to life of New Zealanders in their first nine months of life?

The leader of the Labour Party, Andrew Little, supports the decriminalisation of abortion; he claims that abortion is not a crime. Right to Life believes that it is important that we understand why abortion is in the Crimes Act (Section VIII, Crimes against the Person) and why it would be a great injustice to women and to the unborn to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and treat abortion purely as a health issue.

Section 183, procuring abortion by any means, states that the unlawful killing of the unborn child is a serious crime and that on conviction an offender may be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 14 years.

This section recognises that the unborn child, for the purposes of this act, is from the moment of implantation a human being endowed with human rights, its foundation right being a right to life.

Pro-choice advocates at a counter protest, at the same time as pro-life protesters were holding a vigil near ...
John Kirk-Anderson

Pro-choice advocates at a counter protest, at the same time as pro-life protesters were holding a vigil near Christchurch Hospital.

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It is also an acknowledgement that the state has a duty to protect the right to life of the unborn child. Lastly it is an acknowledgement that the state has an interest in protecting the life of its future citizens which will guarantee the future of society.

Those who support the decriminalisation of abortion claim that the inclusion of abortion in the Crimes Act makes women criminals but this is false. Section 183 states that a woman or girl may not be charged as a party to this section.

The removal of abortion from the Crimes Act should be strongly opposed. It would be a declaration by the state that the unborn child is not a human being and is not the bearer of human rights including a right to life.

It would also be a declaration by the state that it has no interest in protecting the lives of its future citizens, still unborn.

The unborn child would effectively be recognised as the property of the mother who would have the sole right to decide whether her child lives or dies.

Should abortion be decriminalised as it is in Victoria, Australia a woman would have the right to abort her child up to 20 weeks gestation without being required to give a reason. After 20 weeks a doctor would be required to agree that the abortion was appropriate.

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It would mean that a woman could seek an abortion for any reason including because the child was the wrong sex. Because sometimes male children are preferred in some cultures, this would be discrimination against women.

Decriminalisation would extend the grounds of disability to allow abortion for minor disability; this would be discrimination against the disabled.

It should be remembered that the current abortion laws are those recommended by the Royal Commission on Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion (1975-1977), which was appointed by a Labour government. The Commission's report said, upholding the status of the unborn child.  "From a biological point of view there is no argument as to when life begins. Evidence was given to us by eminent scientists from all over the world. None of them suggested that human life begins at any other time than at conception"

It went on to say, "From implantation to birth, changes which take place in the unborn child are of a developmental nature only. There are no changes of a qualitative nature. The three events suggested as being of significance, namely quickening, viability and brain development are no more than stages in that development are not indicative of any qualitative changes in the developing fetus which would make it non-human at one point of time and human at another."

In rejecting the argument that some degree of development should be reached before the unborn child be accorded status the Commission's report said, "If some stage of physical or mental development has to be accepted as indicating whether or not human life is in being, so a stage may be reached at the other end of life where a person who has become senile or has lost consciousness may be disposed of."

If we as a society deny the humanity of the unborn, then logically we may one day deny the humanity of those who are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's.

The denial of the humanity and right to life of the unborn is a threat to the right to life of every citizen.

 - Stuff

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