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Supreme Court Confirms Abortion Supervisory Committee Duty

9 August 2012

Media Release

Supreme Court Confirms Duty of Abortion Supervisory Committee to Hold Certifying Consultants Accountable for Abortions they Authorise

Right to Life welcomes the judgment of the Supreme Court. The judgment declined the appeal of Right to Life by three to two, it however:

• Affirms the duty of the Abortion Supervisory to enquire from certifying consultants how they were approaching their decision making in general.
• The Court noted that the Committee had the power to revoke the appointment of certifying consultants where enquiries the Committee makes lead it to believe that consultants are holding views incompatible with the tenor of the Act. The Committee may refer to the Health and Disability Commissioner or the medical disciplinary authorities, the case of a consultant authorising abortions inconsistent with the abortion law.
Right to Life, is however, disappointed that the Supreme Court dismissed the first grounds of our appeal of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. This ground sought recognition that the Committee had the power to review or scrutinise the decisions of certifying consultants and form its own view about the lawfulness of their decisions to the extent necessary to perform its functions.
Right to Life notes that 98 per cent of abortions are authorised on the grounds of mental health. Right to Life also notes that a previous chairperson of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, stated in a national newspaper in 2000 that she did not believe that all these women were suffering from mental ill health and that consultants were using mental health grounds to provide abortion on demand.

This is an unprecedented judgment. It now places certifying consultants on notice that the Committee has power to make generalized inquiries into the way they are carrying out their functions. The judgment also informs the Committee that they were mistaken in believing that they had no statutory duty or power to make these enquires.

Right to Life expects that with the implementation of this judgment that:

• It should place restraints on the abortion on demand regime that prevails in New Zealand.
• It advances the human rights of unborn children in receiving the full protection of the law.

• It advances protection for the health and welfare of women from the violence of abortion.

Unborn children are the weakest and most defenceless members of the human family. Right to Life is confident that the government will ensure that women and their unborn will receive the full protection of the law afforded by this judgment.

This judgment is a positive step towards Right to Life’s objective of the legal recognition, that from the moment of conception every human being is endowed with human rights, the foundation right being the right to life. These rights are inalienable and universal. From conception, the new human being should be accorded the respect and protection due to the person. Abortion is violence against women and their unborn, it is an unspeakable crime and a violation of the human rights of the mother and her unborn child. This is the justice issue of our era.


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