Thursday, June 02, 2011

Abortion rights look safe

Right to Life's long-running court battle to undermine abortion rights looks to be over, with a Court of Appeal ruling thoroughly dismissing their claims. According to the Court of Appeal [PDF], the long title of the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 (which refers to the "rights of the unborn child") does not create such rights, and neither are they supported by the Crimes Act or the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The Abortion Supervisory Committee has no statutory power or obligation to second-guess the individual clinical decisions of certifying consultants. And Justice Miller's comments impugning the legality of most abortions performed in New Zealand were unsupported by evidence and "ought not to have been made". And just to rub it in, costs are awarded against Right to Life. All in all, a pretty decisive victory.

Unfortunately, its a victory for the status quo, which effectively requires women to declare themselves mentally ill to access a basic medical procedure and is aimed solely at stigmatizing women and making them face the wagging finger of society rather than providing a proper legal framework. While its better than nothing, that's not a status quo particularly worth defending. We need a modern abortion law in New Zealand, one that recognises that it is a medical procedure, not a crime. And the sooner we get one, the better.