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Abortion Supervisory Committee - Tariana Turia

Notice of Motion : Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

Thursday 14 June 2007

Notice of Motion: That pursuant to section 10 and 11 of the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, this House recommend His Excellency the Governor-General appoint Professor Linda Jane Holloway of Dunedin, Dr Rosemary Jane Fenwicke of Wellington and Patricia Ann Allan of Christchurch, as members of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, and appoint Professor Holloway as Chair of the Committee

Mr Speaker, the Maori Party always recognises the value of ancestral traditions in informing the present generation.

We do recognise however that we have been subjected to influences which include values and beliefs from other world views.

And we strive to ensure that we are able to distinguish which is which and in the process maintain the integrity of our respective iwi tikanga.

There are important elements of our tupuna traditions that also shed light on contemporary issues – that guide us in knowing how to view the decision that some 18,000 New Zealanders make every year in using abortion services.

The traditions and concepts that I am referring to, are described in concepts such as ira tangata, tapu, mana, whakapapa, and wairua.

These principles which are common within Maori world views, remind me that ira tangata is more than just a collection of genetic material, of biological interest.

Professor Hirini Moko Mead refers to Ira Tangata ki te Ao Marama – literally from the conception of life in the Mother’s womb, through to the World of Light. There is a godlike and spiritual quality to be considered, because as human beings, ira tangata descend from ira Atua, the Gods.

And so, when we think of abortion, we can not just think of biomedical or clinical matters. We think of the mauri, the life force that permeates the very origin of life.

And when we think of abortion, we think of the concepts of wairuatanga, the spiritual dimensions which are to be found at conception, during the foetal stage, at birth.

When we think of abortion, we think of whakapapa – the genealogical descent - the order of all living things. In essence, what the Chinese may call as ying and yan, the complementary principles of balance between Maori and the wider universe and the natural environment.

We think of mana – the collective authority and influence which is considered within whanau, hapu and iwi.

And importantly, we think of whanaungatanga.

Whanau have the obligation and the responsibility of the duty of care among their own. Whanau, therefore, must be reminded of their rights and reciprocal obligations consistent with being part of a collective.

This one word ‘abortion’ evokes so much emotion and for the Maori mind it triggers the opportunity for multi level discourse and discussion.

It gives us all an opportunity to examine the issues without casting aspersions or judgement on others.

And it is this point, more than any other, that really drives me in the vote of conscience that I must make today.

I have no intention of directing moral blame or criticism of any form on those individuals and whanau who have made the choices that have resulted in abortion, and nor do I say that others should vote as I would vote.

We know that the median age of women having an abortion has remained stable over the last twenty years, at around 25 years. Presumably that is a period of life when one would expect decisions to be made, taking into account the likely consequences and impacts.

This debate is a conscience debate and so I willingly share my truth about this issue –acknowledging that there will be others who have a different point of view.

When I listen to the voice of conscience, the voice within that guides me, there are two strong elements to my thinking.

The first is the simple truth that I believe every child is a loved child.

The second is my view that whanau ora drives everything.

I believe that it is a solemn duty of whanau to ensure the sacred life force which supports mauri, the spark of life, must extend to every child, every mother, every father, every family member.

I believe also that while one may have contrary beliefs one must ensure that judgment is not made of others whose beliefs may be different, whose decision making may be different.

When we talk of manaakitanga, we must consider the heartbeat of the emerging child alongside the heartbeat of the mother alongside the heartbeat of the community – the whanau, hapu, and iwi.

In other words – whanau ora – literally the life-force of our whanau – must as a priority remind us that every decision to do with an individual member of a whanau, will always impact on the health and wellbeing of the wider group.

We have no interest in stigmatising and problematising fertility.

And although I have incurred the wrath of some Members of this House, I will continue to speak out about the joy of life that should be associated with fertility – rather than confining it to a context of the problem of sexual and reproductive health.

It is because of this joy of life, that I am hugely challenged by the existence of the Abortion Supervisory Committee.

And I would never want the issue of abortion to be reduced to reporting for the sake of health statistics; the application of licences, the standards of facilities, and the performance of operations.

The concepts that I have touched on today are as relevant to the decision-making process around abortion as is the administrations of abortion law.

I firmly believe that access to other world views must be part of the context around considering the regulation of abortion services.

And I know that the Maori Party supported the appointment of the three members who have been mentioned today, as members of the Abortion Supervisory Committee.

However with further information available, I am also happy to say we would support the nomination of Tongan woman, Dr Ate Moala, who would come to the position equipped with both her own indigenous Tongan knowledge, the professional expertise of qualifications in public health and her very recent doctorate material regarding health promotion.

Dr Moala has wide experience across the health sector, as well as being Vice President of the NZ Pasifika Medical Association; skills which I am sure will be of value in ensuring access to culturally appropriate sexual and reproductive health information.

The statistics and data available from the annual report of the Abortion Supervisory Committee make a strong stand for requiring cultural competency as a vital attribute for membership.

Whilst the majority of abortions are for European women, there are extremely high rates of Asian, Pasifika and Maori abortions which I believe must be considered when looking at the capacity of the committee to meet the needs of these populations.

There should be particular consideration given to those most affected in this issue. Given the high rates in Asian, Pasifika and Maori communities, one would expect their perspectives and world views to be respected, and for decisions to be informed accordingly.

The committee should be expanded or should absolutely include Dr Ate Moala or a member of Asian descent.

As Maori, we need to be confident that the respect we have for whakapapa, for whanaungatanga, for tikanga is fully understood.

As New Zealanders, we all need to know that sexual and reproductive health is lifelong, and that different cultural frameworks may be helpful in seeing health in a holistic way.

When we think of health and well-being, we must remain focused on our concepts of Hauora : hau, literally meaning the life breath, the essence of humans.

And I will be forever proud that my position is unflinching; my stand uncompromising that there is no more important task in life and death than to safeguard that life breath, that life essence, for now and for our future in front of us.

ENDS

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