Matt McCarten writes in the HoS about a group called Voice for Life which ran adverts (which I did not see) a couple of weeks ago which said:
“We don’t want to change the [abortion] law – we want it to work as it was intended.”
Now my personal position on abortion is it should be legal, safe and preferably rare. As cessation of brain activity is what effectively marks death, I tend to regard life as the start of such brain activity (as measured by ECG, not just electrical activity) which is at around 20 weeks.
But the Voice for Life group do have a point. In NZ we effectively have abortion on demand. Yet this has never been decided by way of legislation. The actual law basically restricts abortion to cases where there would be physical or psychological harm to the mother. Over the last 30 years or so, it has just been effectively ignored by way of an interpretation regime where all mothers qualify under the psychological harm criteria.
Voice for Life want our practice to reflect our law. Well I don’t agree with that – would be horrific to go back to a regime where women are forced into carrying unwanted pregnancies.
The issue for me, is should our law be updated to reflect our practice?
Part of me says let sleeping dogs lie. I love being able to tell friends in the US that our last major abortion debate was in the 1970s and that abortion hasn’t been a major issue in an election campaign in living memory.
But the purist part of me says it is wrong that we have never allowed the public through our representatives to have a say on whether or not the law should allow abortion on demand. I believe the majority of NZers and majority of MPs would vote for the current practice to become law. But it could be a fairly ugly debate. However do we do ourselves a dis-service by dodging the debate?
This is an issue which generates intense emotions on both sides. Some see abortion as incredibly evil and akin to murder. Others see restrictions on abortions as turning women into property who do not control their own bodies. It would be good if people could try and keep the rhetoric controlled.