Right-to-lifers protest medical abortion plan

An anti-abortion group is outraged at what it calls Hamilton Family Planning's plan to "kill on premises".

Voice for Life protesters staged what they called a "peaceful yet powerful protest" yesterday outside Family Planning's clinic in Anglesea St, which could become the first centre of its kind in New Zealand to offer medical abortions.

Unlike surgical abortions, medical procedures meant pregnant women would take a three-day course of Mifegyne, a drug that protest organiser Robyn Jackson said caused severe side-effects. Until now no Waikato health service provider had offered medical abortions.

However, Waikato, Thames and Tokoroa hospitals perform surgical abortions. In 2008 they carried out a total of 2150 procedures.

Voice for Life Waikato president Kathryn Marelich said if Family Planning was granted the licence it would provide what she called an unnecessary licence to kill using chemicals she believed could do more harm than good.

"We want those women to be better informed about the side-effects of taking those types of chemicals. Twelve people have died in the US from complications like excessive bleeding and infection," Ms Marelich warned.

But Family Planning national medical adviser Dr Christine Roke said unrelated medical conditions contributed to those deaths.

The procedure had no more risk than surgical abortions. "It's about giving women a choice. They don't have to go into a hospital to have an operation. If they meet the criteria they can stay within community health organisations."

Medical abortions had been available in other main centres without incident, she said. Family Planning's decision to provide the service was meeting a community need. Supporting Waikato Family Planning's licence request is Waikato District Health Board.

Women's Health clinical unit leader Dr Deirdre Rohlandt said Waikato DHB did not have the resource or facilities to offer women a medical abortion.

"Family Planning has presented a detailed case for how they can provide such procedures and we are now working with them to ensure all safety and medical requirements are met. We will back them up as a medical provider should it be required," Dr Rohlandt said.

If Family Planning is successful in obtaining a licence to perform medical abortions in the Waikato the organisation will seek to roll out further licence applications around the country.

Waikato Times