Friday, June 13, 2008

Trotter, National and abortion

In his Dominion-Post column today, Chris Trotter highlights the threat to abortion rights posed by the High Court decision, and draws the obvious political conclusion:

So, all of you young, confident women of the 21st century urgently need to pause and reflect upon what is happening – especially all you young, confident women thinking of voting for the National Party.

Why? Because behind National, hidden by all those glossy placards depicting the handsome John Key, marches a much less appealing army of fanatical right-wing activists, all of whom are impatient to advance the conservative causes that nine years of Labour-led government have held in check.

Predictably, National supporters are calling this a "beat up" (e.g. comments here). And I'll happily admit Trotter is wrong on this point. The Taleban aren't marching "behind" National - they're within it. Don't believe me? Just look at their voting record. In 2004, 23 of National's then-27 MPs voted to require teenagers to notify their parents before being allowed to have an abortion. Six of them voted to require parental consent, effectively allowing parents to turn their children into brood mares. National's "liberal" leader John Key sided with the Taleban in the first vote, but not the second. In 2007, National MPs sided with NZ First and United Future in attempting to appoint anti-abortionists to the Abortion Supervisory Committee. Key again collaborated with the Taleban in this.

I think that that record speaks for itself. While National contains a few liberals on this issue (Dr Jackie Blue and Dr Paul Hutchison being notable examples), it has a seriously disproportionate number of conservatives and outright medievalists. Those who favour abortion rights are right to be concerned, and may wish to cast their vote for a party with a higher proportion of liberals on this issue.

Of course, National could address this concern instantly by stating publicly that they will legislate to preserve the practical status quo of abortion on demand if the High Court decision has any impact on access. But I think that's about as likely as their being honest with the public about their other policies.