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Abortion Access Again At Risk In Court Case

Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand

26 August 2011

Abortion Access Again At Risk In Court Case

ALRANZ is disappointed that efforts to roll back abortion access in New Zealand are headed to the Supreme Court, with today’s decision by the court to allow the anti-abortion group Right to Life leave to appeal in its 6-year-long anti-abortion legal action, president Dr. Morgan Healey said tonight.

The good news for the women of New Zealand is that the court limited the matters it will hear, Dr. Healey said. Not included in the appeal are the claim that the fetus has a legal right to life from conception and the challenge to the current abortion counseling services in New Zealand.

The court has said it will hear Right to Life’s appeal on three issues, including whether the Abortion Supervisory Committee can review the lawfulness of abortion approvals by certifying consultants. (Every abortion in New Zealand must be approved by two certifying consultants under limited grounds set out in the Crimes Act.)

“This is of grave concern to ALRANZ,” Dr. Healey said. “If a politically appointed statutory body like the Abortion Supervisory Committee is given the power to second-guess medical judgments, then abortion access for individual women will become a political, not a medical decision.”

Dr. Healey said this parlous state of affairs was the direct result of Parliament’s failure to act to secure a woman’s right to make her own decision about abortion.

“Because politicians have refused to take action to decriminalise abortion in New Zealand, the courts are having to act for them, putting all women’s access to reproductive health care at risk,” she said.

The Court of Appeal’s ruling in June explained in great detail how firmly and frequently the Abortion Supervisory Committee has, over many years, called for legislative change, and how firmly MPs have turned a blind eye, she said.


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