Tuesday, June 10, 2008

About Time

Around 18,000 abortions per year are performed in NZ. The vast majority on mental health grounds. This in a society where "a mental health day" is a common opting out of technique used for people who have been on the large the night before.

And finally someone has had the guts to say it. Justice Forrest Miller said, "There was reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions."

Critically the Judge held that the Bill of Rights, through the abortion law, had recognised the unborn child had a "claim on the conscience of the community, and not merely that of the mother". This is a great development for the more active balancing of the rights of the unborn child against the rights of the mother.

In what can only be described as bizarre, Women's National Abortion Campaign spokeswoman Di Cleary said that trying to legally enforce the rights of an unborn child would result in women being treated like children. This is a patently ridiculous assertion. What the Judge is saying is that the law DOES recognise a right in the unborn child that needs to be protected. There is a problem if that right is being routinely abused in circumstances where abortions are being provided where the real risk to a person's mental health goes little beyond the impact of "life happening".

I want to be clear, I'm not talking about cases on the extreme ends of this issue - abortions sought in circumstances of rape, incest or the physical health of the mother. But no matter how stressful an unplanned pregnancy might be outside the extreme examples cited, it pales into insignificance against the loss of life that we are seeing year after year.

5 comments:

Rhett said...

You are a brave man. I thought briefly about posting on this on my blog, but decided not to! I find it really hard to divorce an emotional response from the issue. I realise it is incredibly complex but abortion is such a violent solution.

I remember you pointing out what this judge has said a few months back and that was a revelation to me. I'd almost agree with the law as it is, the problem is that GP's are being far to loose with what they term a 'mental health risk'.

I talked to a friend of mine who is a year away from qualifying as a GP and she said it is almost impossible to prove or dissprove in a concrete way whether the mother is indeed at risk of mental difficulty. What would you suggest a "check and balance"?

BJ said...

If its not provable in a given situation, then I'd say the benefit goes to the party who doesn't have a voice. Its a pretty concrete situation for them, if the mother is given the benefit of the doubt.

There isn't a week that goes by that my mental health isn't tested by my kids. Thats life. Its also tested by crap drivers, but I'm not allowed to shoot them when i pull up alongside them at the intersection. Its tormented by rude restaurant staff but I'm not allowed to plunge my steak knife into their retreating back.

I'm not trying to trivialise women at serious risk, but I think the application of our abortion law trivilises life.

servant said...

I have been looking forward to the written report from the judge. It's good to see the media report it.

The sad thing is that Family Planning is already talking about a need to loosen the law in the face of this decision.... it will be interesting to see where parliament heads. This actually has the potential to backfire on organisations like Right to Life and those campaigning against abortion. Parliament could take the lazy option and loosen the legislation... but then they may have to change the Bill of Rights, which would be a tough ask.

Rhett said...

"There isn't a week that goes by that my mental health isn't tested by my kids. Thats life. Its also tested by crap drivers, but I'm not allowed to shoot them when i pull up alongside them at the intersection. Its tormented by rude restaurant staff but I'm not allowed to plunge my steak knife into their retreating back."

You have such a poetic way with words BJ.

BJ said...

What's missing from the debate to my mind are some really objective standards that are accessible to the public arena regarding what it real risk to mental health? And what research is there available to weigh the long term mental health of those who select the abortion option? Finally, I'd love to know how many women are denied access to an abortion because it isn't a danger to their mental health. Thats a valuable piece of information:

> It might help us understand whether the law is being applied properly
> If the number is low it might tell us something about the mental state of people who find themselves needing an abortion - are the mentally unstable over represented in the abortion stats?

Currently, the extreme elements on both edges of this debate are afraid to dialogue on some aspects of this debate because they are driven by ideological impulses.