NEW ZEALAND, June 2, 2011 ( – Unborn children have no right to life, according to New Zealand Court of Appeal judges.  The judges also ruled against findings by a High Court judge that questioned the lawfulness of many abortion procedures.

The case dates back to a 2005 legal challenge New Zealand Right to Life (RTL) brought against the Committee responsible for all provisions under New Zealand’s abortion law, including licensing abortion facilities and appointing certified consultants to review cases. 

In their 2005 court case, RTL said the Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) failed to review whether the certifying consultants were lawfully permitting abortions, since many were authorized under the claim that the unborn baby was a “threat to the women’s mental health.” 

Abortions in New Zealand are permitted when the mother’s life, physical or mental, is in danger or when considerable evidence reveals the unborn child is at risk of being severely handicapped.  RTL demanded that the ASC further review the authorization of abortions to ensure their legality.

In his 2008 ruling on the case, High Court Justice Forrest Miller said there was “reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants.” However, he affirmed that the unborn do not have a legal right to life in New Zealand, despite arguments from RTL.

ASC appealed Miller’s decision, while RTL also cross-appealed statements that the unborn have no right to life.

The case was brought before judges in New Zealand’s Court of Appeal yesterday who upheld Miller’s statement on the unborn, saying they have no legal right to life.  The Court also dismissed Miller’s findings that abortion consultants may be allowing abortions against the law.

In a 2-1-majority ruling, the court said reviewing the consultants’ decisions was outside the scope of the ASC’s power.

“We consider that the appropriate channels of investigation would involve either a complaint by a patient or potentially by the committee itself, in which case the health and disability commissioner would become involved,” the Court bench wrote. “Alternatively, there might be a complaint to the police, in which case the police would investigate the matter.”

Former President of the Abortion Law Reform Association praised the Court’s decision.

“I think it’s a great relief for the abortion supervisory committee whose procedures were being attacked, the doctors, the certifying consultants who have to make these decisions, and the women of New Zealand,” said Dame Margaret Sparrow. “I would be more in favour of decriminalising abortion making it just as any other health topic.”

Meanwhile, RTL spokesman Ken Orr told Newstalk ZB he was disappointed.  “We were confident that the judgement was very sound and a very learned judgement and we were confident that judgement would’ve been upheld in the Court of Appeal,” he said.

However, the pro-life organization said it might pursue further legal action in the Supreme Court.  “That’s a matter that will have to be discussed with our council,” said Orr, “we’ll be taking advice from the council on that matter and making a decision in due course.”


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