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Celebrating Families 5 November 2004

Judith Collins - National Party Family Spokesperson

5 November 2004

Parliament fails parents and young girls. Last night, Parliament lost an opportunity to make a real difference to good parents and to girls who are living in abusive homes.

The issues up for debate included my two amendments to the Care of Children Bill. The present law allows a girl of any age to undergo an abortion without any parent knowing about it. The present law allows a girl undergoing an abortion because of rape or incest to be sent straight back into the environment where that crime occurred. The current law does nothing to protect young girls from abuse and it does nothing to involve parents at these very difficult times.

I cannot imagine any 14 year old girl actually wanting to tell her mother that she is to undergo an abortion. Even though a girl might not want to tell her mother, it is still almost always going to be in her best interests that she has the love and support of her parents. I took on board the concerns expressed by some doctors and some MPs that if girls were required by law to inform a parent, a girl might seek a backstreet abortion. I certainly do not want to see that happening in New Zealand. That is why my amendment provided:

An underage girl seeking an abortion would be counselled to advise a parent or guardian. This is consistent with what GPs consider best practice. If, despite the GP's best efforts, the girl refuses to advise a parent, the GP would complete a form advising the reasons stated by the girl as to why she is taking the decision not to notify a parent. If the GP believes that the matter should be referred to appropriate authorities, eg: police and/or CYF, the action that has been taken to refer the matter would also be included in the information form. I believe that this is in accordance with the exemptions to patient/GP confidentiality as recognised in the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989, the Health Act 1956 and the Health Information Privacy Code 1994.

The form would then be seen by a Family Court Judge for two purposes:
1. As a notification where the Judge's position stands in for the parent/guardian, and
2. If the Judge believes, on the information disclosed on the form, that the child might be in need of care and protection, to ensure that the referral to the appropriate agency has occurred for the welfare of the child.

I believe that these provisions would rectify two major concerns that many New Zealanders have with the current clause 37 :
1. It would provide parental notification as the default provision, with judicial notification required at the girl’s request.
2. It would provide a back-up to the GP regarding further action to be taken if the girl is believed to be in need of care and protection. The current law allows a girl to be sent back into an abusive environment, eg: in the case of incest, and allows a girl who is, for instance, engaged in underage-prostitution in order to support a "P" addiction, to go straight back to that behaviour.

I listened to parents, GPs, abortion providers, concerned MPs and citizens and I believe that these provisions would have provided a workable answer to the current situation that leaves parents in the dark when their daughter is at her most vulnerable and most in need of love and support.

A recent NZ Herald-Digipoll showed that more than 71% of those polled said that a parent should be notified if an underage girl seeks an abortion and 60% felt that such notification should be mandatory. Unfortunately, the Labour government refuses to assist with working towards finding a solution. My letter asking for us to work together on better legislation was met with a blanket refusal to acknowledge a problem or that there needs to be a solution found in the best interests of these most vulnerable young girls and their families.

My second amendment sought to have the Abortion Supervisory Committee keep proper records about these girls – how many are pregnant as a result of incest; what happens to them afterwards. To his absolute shame, again the Government Minister and 49 of his Labour colleagues would not agree.

This newsletter is available on my website www.judithcollins.co.nz.


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