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Doctors’ organisations urge MPs not to change law

12 September 2004

Doctors’ organisations urge MPs not to change law

A proposed law change could have devastating consequences for young pregnant girls, and could foresee a return to the era of dangerous illegal abortions.

The New Zealand Medical Assocation and the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners are urging politicians not to vote for the Supplementary Order Paper, proposed by National’s Judith Collins, to the Care of Children Bill. The SOP would make it mandatory for the parents or guardians of a pregnant girl under 16 to be notified prior to any referral to a certifying consultant for an abortion.

“If this law change is passed, the risk of dangerous self-induced or illegal abortions would sharply increase for these young girls,” said NZMA Chairman Dr Tricia Briscoe.

“Doctors already counsel pregnant girls to tell their parents and seek support if they get pregnant. Most young pregnant girls do tell a family member and do have family support if they seek an abortion.

“But a small number of girls do not wish to inform their parent or guardian, and may be put at risk if they are required to do so. The consequences of making it mandatory for a doctor to inform a parent could be devastating for some girls, particularly those who have abusive family relationships.

“If a girl knows that a doctor would be compelled to tell her parents if she seeks an abortion, she may instead give herself a pregnancy test in secret, and then seek a dangerous illegal abortion.”

“This proposal is a backward step and sends a dangerous message to young girls, who may be confused, desperate and vulnerable,” Dr Briscoe continued. “It does nothing to improve the well-being of pregnant girls, or offer any protection.”

“We call on all MPs to seriously consider the wider ramifications of this issue, and vote against it in the interests of our young people.”

The proposal also includes the option of the girl seeking a judicial review to prevent her parents from being told, but the NZMA and RNZCGP do not consider this to be an effective alternative.

Since the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act was passed in 1977, pregnant girls under 16 have been able to apply for approval for an abortion without being required to inform their parents or guardians, or get their consent.

ENDS

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