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Celebrating Families 30 September 2004

Judith Collins

30 September 2004

National Party Family Spokesperson

I am pleased with the result of a new poll that shows seven out of ten New Zealanders support my bid to ensure parents are told if their underage daughter sought an abortion. It is even more important that the poll is not solely of parents but of a group of New Zealanders. The poll question did not mention the judicial bypass provision that my amendment provides for the girl who doesn't want to tell a parent or guardian. Reaction to my office suggests that when that is taken into account, the support for the amendment is even higher.

I don't subscribe to the Helen Clark school of parenting. I don't subscribe to a view that children are somehow divorced from parents, able to make great big, life-changing decisions and don't need to tell Mum or Dad because they might get upset. Unlike Ms Clark's colleague, David Benson-Pope, I don't think that an 11 year old girl who is pregnant is suddenly "a woman". These are little girls we are talking about. Little girls who are clearly in particularly vulnerable situations and desperately in need of love and support from their own parents, not someone who gets paid to care by the hour, not someone who never has to live with the consequences of their actions and inactions. Unlike Mr Benson-Pope, I have been a young teenage girl.

I know that if I had been a young girl, pregnant and afraid, that I would not have wanted to tell my parents either. But that would be absolutely the wrong decision. The best interests of almost all girls in that situation is to get help from a parent or guardian. What child wants to disappoint her parents? What child wants to tell her Mum that a family "friend" has raped her? What child wants to tell her Dad that Dad's best friend got her pregnant? What girl wants to tell her Mum that the girl's friends are experimenting with sex and its consequences? Yet who must know? Clearly a parent or guardian. As hard as it is to tell a parent before an abortion, it must be ten times harder afterwards. But the fact that a young girl in that situation doesn't want to tell, does not mean that she shouldn't tell a parent or guardian. The best interests of the child is almost always for a parent or guardian to know. Secrecy doesn't build good families.

The current law does not discriminate between good and bad parents. That is particularly hurtful for parents. The current law presumes that a parent of a pregnant underage girl might be a bad parent. Bad things happen to good girls. Bad things happen to good families. Bad things happen to everyone. Bad things don't only happen to bad people.

I have heard from good parents who found out years later what was going on in the mind of their teenage girl who simply changed at the age of 14, suffered depression, attempted suicide and distanced herself from her parents. 10 years after, they finally found out that she had had an abortion and had kept it secret from them. The trust that has been broken between that girl and her parents is unlikely to ever be repaired. That girl's lost years can never be recovered.

Helen Clark and David Benson-Pope say that the current law is working well. On whose reading?

Last year, there were 89 abortions performed on girls aged 11 to 14. That's 89 examples of girls who were clearly, by the laws of New Zealand, incapable of consent to sexual intercourse. How many of these girls were sent straight back into situations where they were likely to be abused? We don't know because nobody involved has cared enough to record these.

I am buoyed by the overwhelming response to my office in support of my proposed amendment to the Care of Children Bill. I have been inundated with calls of support, emails, faxes and correspondence. These have been from parents, teachers, counsellors and medical practitioners. I am amazed that so many GPs have said that their own association never asked their opinion before condemning my proposal. In comparison I have received two calls from abortion providers who have been against my stand.

The National Party has decided to make my amendment a conscience vote. That is a good idea. I know that there are Labour MPs who support my stand. They have told me that they cannot call for a conscience vote in their caucus unless National treats it as a conscience issue.

Well we are, so let's see if Ms Clark has the courage to let her MPs have a conscience vote or whether she is too scared to let that happen. We already know that Labour MPs were leaned on very heavily to support her Prostitution and Civil Union bills. My call is that she can't afford to risk letting her MPs have a free conscience.


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