Abortion: whose choice is it?

July 1, 2008

- Daphna Whitmore

A High Court judge has sparked debate about abortion rights in New Zealand. Reviewing the committee that oversees abortions, Justice Miller has announced that many abortions are simply not lawful. His sponsors, the Right to Life organisation, are thrilled to have him championing their cause. It may just turn out that Justice Miller has sent a timely reminder that New Zealand’s abortion laws hark back to the dark ages of Muldoon.

While it may seem that abortions are relatively easy to get, behind the scenes doctors have to stretch the letter of the law to provide a much needed service. Over 98 percent of abortions proceed on the grounds that there is serious danger to the woman’s mental health. (Report of the Abortion Supervisory Committee 2007)

The grounds for abortion are extremely narrow and set out in the Crimes Act. It’s telling that what should be a basic right, or at least a right to a health service, is treated as a crime.

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