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Royal College Claims Abortion Law Upheld

17 June 2008


Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists – Claim Abortion Law Upheld

Right to Life respectfully challenges the public statement of Dr Gillian Gibson, chairwoman of the Royal College that an audit of the lawfulness of abortions would not be of concern as an audit would prove that the law is being faithfully followed already. She went on to say; “What we have at the moment is a very safe and accessible service for women. It is a lawful service and legal abortions are being performed.” In the light of Justice Miller’s judgment this statement is challenged. Everybody has known for many years that the lawfulness of many abortions is questionable, why then does the Royal College pretend that the abortion laws are being upheld?

Justice Miller has stated in his judgment; “There is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants.” This important conclusion is reached after careful consideration of the abortion statistics and the comments of the Abortion Supervisory Committee [ASC].

The statement of Dr Gibson is of great importance. In 2006 there were 205 certifying consultants appointed by the Abortion Supervisory Committee to consider requests for abortions The Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, requires that at least half of those appointed are required to be practising obstetricians or gynaecologists. The Royal Commission in its report to Parliament recommended this requirement because it was considered that because of their specialist training that they would be an advocate for the right to life of unborn children and for the health and welfare of women. Members of the distinguished College are pledged to uphold the 2,400 year Hippocratic tradition of respect for life. The 1948 Declaration of Geneva states:

“I will maintain the utmost respect for life from the time of conception, even under threat I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.”

What action then is the Royal College taking to ensure that all of its members uphold this noble tradition?

What has the Abortion Supervisory Committee said about the lawfulness of abortions in New Zealand? In 1988 the Committee in its report to Parliament alluded to the;

“Current unwieldy system of terminating potentially normal pregnancies on pseudo legal grounds.” 

In 1994 the Court of Appeal in Bayer v Police stated in their judgment;

“We have no doubt that the Supervisory Committee’s statistics about abortions performed on mental health grounds and its critical comments in its 1988 report could give rise to misgivings about the lawfulness of many abortions carried out in New Zealand”

In November, 2000 Dr Christine Forster, chairperson of the ASC stated in a national newspaper;

“Certainly in the main centres in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, if a woman wants an abortion I think she will get one.” “…The vast majority, 98% are approved on the grounds that proceeding with the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the mental health of women.” She did not believe that all these women were in serious danger. “It is demeaning to be claiming that this is something that is a serious mental health problem.” “I think people are fitting the grounds to the women.”


In 2000 and in 2001 the Committee in their report to Parliament observed that the law was not working as originally intended. The Royal College has a distinguished record of caring for women and protecting the lives of unborn children, the weakest and most defenceless members of the human family. The above evidence would suggest that a small number of members of the College have failed to ensure that unborn children have received the full protection of the law and that the health and welfare of vulnerable women with an unplanned pregnancy has been protected. The Royal College would have been fully aware of the Committee’s concern expressed since 1988 about the lawfulness of abortions in New Zealand. It is disappointing that the Royal College is now ignoring the substantial evidence of nearly 30 years and claiming that “an audit would simply prove the law is being faithfully followed already.” 



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