AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Crisis pregnancy centres, sidewalk counsellors, pro-life doctors, and midwives are targeted in a new policy on abortion from New Zealand’s Green Party announced last week.
Initially commentary on the policy focused on the Greens’ wish to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and to promote easier access to abortion, especially for those with an adverse pre-natal diagnosis. However, pro-life groups are now raising concern over how the policy would affect those who offer alternatives to abortion-vulnerable women.
Part one of the Greens’ policy focuses on coercion, both for and against, abortion. While it emphasizes the importance of “neutral” counselling prior to abortion, the policy discourages “non-neutral counselling which provides women with biased, inaccurate health information.”
“This is a direct swipe at sidewalk counsellors and crisis pregnancy centres,” said Dame Colleen Bayer, whose organization Family Life International NZ runs three pregnancy centers throughout New Zealand.
“Pro-abortion groups have long-held that pro-life information is biased, yet we are the only ones to offer all the facts, present all the options, and offer a hand of practical support and encouragement.”
There has been an increase in pregnancy help services in New Zealand over the last decade. Pro-life groups believe that, among other initiatives, the practical help and support that these centers give pregnant women is contributing to the country’s declining abortion statistics.
The Green Party policy also makes clear that doctors who oppose abortion must “refer the patient to a neutral practitioner in a timely manner.”
Ken Orr, spokesperson for Right to Life New Zealand, believes that “the Greens have no respect for the conscience of doctors who are opposed to the killing of the innocent.”
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In a statement, Mr. Orr said he is angered by the prospect that “the Greens would legislate to force doctors who are opposed to the killing of the innocent, to refer women seeking an abortion another doctor.” He called it “an unacceptable tyranny.”
New Zealand’s Crimes Act, 1961 allows for abortion up until 20 weeks for incest, foetal anomalies, or if the mother has a disability. Abortion is also lawful throughout all nine months of pregnancy for the mental or physical health of the mother. Two certifying consultants must attest that the abortion will be lawful. The law also stipulates that a woman cannot be criminally charged for having an abortion.
Dame Bayer believes that the Greens have been working very closely with the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ), Family Planning, and other pro-abortion groups.
“The so-called right to abortion is sacrosanct with these people. They will do anything to stifle the truth about abortion,” she said.