Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Abortion safe for now

Right To Life's legal battle against abortion seems to be over. Justice Miller's ruling was released yesterday, and he once again refused to make any orders, this time on the basis that the functions of the Abortion Supervisory Committee have been "clarified" and that Parliament would hold them to account. The good news is there will be no restriction of abortion rights, and Right To Life's case has effectively failed. The bad news is that Miller's impugning of the legality of most abortions performed in New Zealand (seemingly based on nothing but his own feeling that there are too many of them) will be allowed to stand. As before, no orders means no appeal is possible. So we get the status quo, with some bonus slander.

The fundamentalists are apparently happy with that, but I'm not sure how long that will last. The flip side of no orders is that Miller's "clarification" is a fiction which holds no actual legal weight. So, the Abortion Supervisory Committee can continue leaving clinical decisions in the hands of medical professionals as before. And its only a matter of time before the fundamentalists realise this and drag the issue back into court again - in the process putting the basic right of women to control their own bodies under threat.

This isn't good enough. Now that the immediate case is over, its time we stepped up to prevent it ever happening again. It is long past time we reformed our abortion laws, joined the modern world, and allowed abortion on demand. The Australian state of Victoria has provided the model; its time we adopted it here.

Correction: Now that I've seen the actual judgement, it is clear that the ruling can be appealed. Right To Life can appeal the decision not to grant any orders (and they may very well want to do that), while the ASC can appeal Justice Miller's interpretation of the law in his earlier judgement. So, its not over yet after all.