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Abortion Ruling Good News But Political Action Needed



Abortion Ruling Good News For Women, But Political Action Needed

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) was relieved to learn that the Supreme Court ruled, by a three to two majority, in favour of the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) in Right to Life’s seven-year case against it, ALRANZ President Dr. Morgan Healey said today.

The Court concluded that the ASC is not empowered to question the medical decisions of certifying consultants, who are charged with approving the grounds upon which a woman is entitled to an abortion under the Crimes Act (1961).

“We have watched this case very closely over the last seven years, and worried about the possible implications a decision in favour of RTL would have on women’s access to abortion in this country,” Healey said.

While ALRANZ hopes this decision provides relief for certifying consultants and women across the country, it notes with concern that the Supreme Court stated that the ASC have the statutory ability to inquire into the general process by which individual consultants reach their decisions.

“Given the propensity of the anti-choice movement to use the courts to wage their ideological wars, I fear that this will embolden them to more action,” Healey said.

“Today’s decision was about reaffirming the status quo of New Zealand abortion laws. It didn’t make access to reproductive health care easier for women, and it didn’t shut down the possibility of further legal action by anti-choice groups. The only way to stop this from happening is law reform,” she said.

ALRANZ believes the Government needs to take action to meet the recommendations of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Committee to remove punitive provisions for abortion. In last month’s concluding comments, the Committee stated that New Zealand’s abortion laws were overly complicated and ‘convoluted’, and that the continued criminality of women increased the risk of unsafe abortion.

Healey asked how much longer women would have to wait for decriminalisation. “How many more court cases do anti-abortion groups need to take before politicians will act? If yesterday’s decision had gone the other way, and access had been curtailed, would action have been taken then? It grieves me to think that women in this country need to be faced with a crisis in terms of abortion access before anyone is willing to consider reform,” she said.

For a timeline of the case, go to www.alranz.org

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