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Collins notification against World Health advice

Compulsory notification goes against World Health Organisation advice

29 September, 2004

Amendments to the Care of Children Bill proposed by National's Judith Collins, contradict the World Health Organisation’s technical and policy guidelines for policy makers and health professionals, says Family Planning Association Executive Director, Dr Gill Greer.

The proposed amendment to the Care of Children Bill would make it compulsory for doctors to notify the parents of a young pregnant woman if she seeks an abortion.

Dr Greer says the WHO is very clear on this.

“The ‘WHO Safe Abortion Technical and Policy Guidance for Health Systems 2003’ says the requirement for parental notification is a barrier to obtaining a safe, legal abortion ‘deterring women from seeking timely care and leading them to risk self-induced abortion or clandestine services’.”

Confidentiality is a key principle of medical ethics and lack of assurance of confidentiality is also a barrier the WHO has identified, Dr Greer says.

FPA fully supports The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners and the New Zealand Medical Association, between them representing some 5000 health professionals, who say the move would increase the risk of a young women putting off seeking medical attention, or even seeking a dangerous "backstreet" or self inflicted abortion.

Dr Greer says shunning the WHO’s 2003 guidelines is not in anybody’s interests.

The WHO report says ‘Respect for persons also includes the obligation to protect vulnerable people. Unmarried women, adolescents, those living in extreme poverty and those facing violence in the home, may be considered particularly vulnerable.’

“It specifically addresses the issue of mandatory parental consent, pointing out: ‘In all actions concerning children [defined as every human being below the age of 18 years] whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration’."

While acknowledging that this is a sensitive and complex issue, Dr Greer says all the research shows that most young women do talk to their parents if they are seeking an abortion. In the very few cases it does not happen, it is because of dysfunctional family dynamics and often violence is a feature.

“The current law protects those very few young women who are in most need, and least likely to be able to work through the court process that would be required to avoid mandatory notification.”

Dr Greer said in addition to maintaining the current the legislation, more focus needed to be put on good sexuality education and access to contraception services to ensure abortion is not needed.


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