There is a right to protest

August 19th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Green MP Jan Logie says it is worth debating whether New Zealand should introduce a no-protest zone around abortion clinics, similar to those enforced in some Australian states.

Sure and I’d like to debate whether NZ should introduce a no-protest zone around political party conferences.

In the Australian states of Tasmania and Victoria, filming, intimidation and protests are banned within 150m of abortion centres. In New South Wales, a bill to provide a 150m “safe access zone” has just been introduced by a Green MP on the grounds of ensuring the right to medical privacy.

Logie said the Green Party had no plans for a member’s bill on the issue but another speaker had raised the Australian example. There were different views expressed on it and she believed a broader discussion was needed.

“I do think there’s is a genuine issue around the impact of those protests directly targeting women and making their lives worse.”

And protests around party conferences target delegates and make their lives worse.

The Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand president Terry Bellamak said protesters didn’t have a place outside health clinics.

“Women experience harassment as intrusive and intimidating, even if protesters are silent.

“It’s just not kind. To stand outside where someone is just trying to go about their day getting health care and to be silently judging them.

“It’s the 21st century. We all have the freedom to make our own moral choices.”

Including the freedom to protest.

I’m pro-choice. I think those who do protest outside abortion clinics are misguided and insensitive and do indeed make what can be a traumatic experience even worse for those involved. I wish they didn’t protest, just as I wish the Westboro Church didn’t picket funerals. It reflects badly on them.

But they have a right to protest, and I don’t think no-protest zones are a good idea.

Parental information on under 16 abortions

July 9th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Parliament has rejected a petition calling for it to be made compulsory that parents be informed if their teenager was to have an abortion. 

Parliament’s Justice and Electoral select committee has released its report into the petition of Hillary Kieft and six others, that it passes legislation to prevent under 16-year-olds having abortions without notifying the parents.

It disagreed with Kieft, but recommended rules and guidelines should be strengthened to ensure under-16s were given the best possible information around post-procedure care, and encouraged to tell their parents themselves. 

I think generally parents should know if their child has had an abortion, just as they would for any other medical procedure. However there are cases where it would be unsafe to tell the parents, so the challenge is how to deal with those situations. Do you legislate that parents must be informed, and require a kid to get a judge’s permission not to? Or is that too daunting?

In the vast majority of cases, parents should be told (and are I believe). It is hard for them to be parents if they can’t support their kid through what will be an emotionally turbulent decision (for many, not all).

Kieft’s daughter was 15 when she was taken for an abortion in Hawera in 2010 that was arranged by her school.

Afterwards, she was dropped home to her parents where they were told she had been to a counselling appointment.

A year later their daughter attempted suicide and it was only then that she confided she had been taken to a Family Planning clinic for an abortion and had not received any follow-up counselling or medical treatment.

The Taranaki mother appeared in front of the select committee in August last year, to speak to MPs about her petition. 

She told them that as a result of the abortion her daughter is now infertile, and took medication every day to deal with depression.

“She was denied the support of her family and we were robbed of the ability to properly support and help our child. We also lost a grandchild.”

But while the committee was sympathetic to Kieft’s situation, it found in some cases, a young person could be put at risk of harm if their parents were informed.

“The evidence presented by the relevant organisations overwhelmingly demonstrated that, although it is best practice for a young person to tell her parents that she is pregnant, this should not be mandatory.

“Young people should be encouraged and supported to tell their family, but in some situations this would put them at risk of harm, the Justice and Electoral Committee has ruled.”

So again it is who decides in each case if it is warranted. A judge or the young person concerned?

Male abortion rights

March 19th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Men’s current options when it comes to contraception are either to use condoms or, for a permanent solution, undergo a vasectomy. There is also a male version of the contraceptive pill due to become available.

But politicians in Sweden have proposed another option involving a swift signature on a piece of paper: Male abortion.

The youth wing of Sweden’s Liberal Party wants expectant fathers to be able to “legally abort” their unborn child up until 18 weeks gestation – the country’s cut off point for physical abortions.

Marcus Nilsen, chairman of the party’s youth wing West (LUF) told the Aftonbladetnewspaper, “Men should have an equal right to opt out of parenting and choose whether or not to become a parent.

“There are endless examples of men who can’t even say whether they want to be involved in parenthood or how involved they want to be. It is important that men remain honest with themselves and their intentions,” says Nilsen.

Male abortion would be a legal decision, allowing unwilling fathers to relinquish parental responsibilities for their unborn child. The decision would render them without future rights to see the child, and alleviate them of providing financial support.

The youth wing claim that their concept of male abortion is a feminist policy that will provide equality for the sexes and allow expectant mothers to know whether their child’s father will support the child or not.

Sounds more like a way for men to escape any responsibility for their actions.

The youth wing has previously proposed radical policies, such as legalising necrophilia and consensual incest. Along with these, their latest proposal has been firmly rejected by the Liberal Party’s central office but has sparked debate in the country.

I can understand the libertarian argument for consensual incest, but not for necrophilia. How can a corpse consent? That’s of course putting aside any other arguments against.

AUSA turns down scholarship as it is from a pro-life group

January 14th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Pro-Life Auckland writes:

I’m the President of Prolife Auckland, which is a University of Auckland club committed to advocating for the rights and personhood of unborn children. I’m aware from reading Kiwiblog that you’re personally prochoice, however I think you’ll agree that the issues around ideological capture and groupthink are much broader than that particular debate, and I get the impression that you are generally supportive of freedom of expression.

By way of background, our club is setting up a scholarship to help pay childcare costs for solo mother students. We’ll be fundraising for this in the hope that we can help at least one young woman per semester through her students – obviously financial circumstances can be pretty difficult following the birth of a child. We like to think that our “pro-life” philosophy is pretty holistic so we’re putting our money where our mouth is.

We wanted to offer the scholarship under the auspices of AUSA and to get their support in promoting it, so I approached them sometime in October with a proposal. Imagine our surprise when the official answer we (eventually!) received was that they weren’t interested in helping us to help solo mothers. Given that their entire function is to serve the student population, I think it’s appalling they are prepared to allow ideology to get in the way of student welfare. I also don’t think it’s fair for the student union to hold itself out as representing all students when dissenting opinions are suppressed. It just goes to show, I think, that student union membership should be voluntary.

Oh, and by the way, I find it particularly ironic that this decision was made with the full support of AUSA’s President, Paul Smith, who earlier this year at the Auckland Writers Festival made a speech in his capacity as AUSA President on the absolute right to offend and to freedom of expression. The debate is mentioned here: however further details can be found here: I quote:

“Paul Smith, President of the University of Auckland Debating Society, opened by pointing out that free speech is the cornerstone of personal freedom and democracy. He said that offense is subjective and that people have the option of not engaging with what offends them. Referencing marriage and gender equality, he said that offense can be a catalyst for change and that the veneer of protection against offense is often used as an excuse to shut down ideas.”

I’m pro-choice, but that doesn’t matter.  AUSA should not be refusing a genuine offer of assistance to students, just because they don’t agree with the views of the group.


What this means is that an Auckland student who may have been able to get their childcare costs paid for, now won’t be able to, unless Pro-life can work around AUSA.

A moving story

September 24th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Rebecca Cohen writes in the Washington Post:

In coming days, the Senate is expected to consider a federal ban on abortions at 20 weeks. Before lawmakers cast their votes, I would like them to hear my story.

If such a ban had been in place a year ago, I would have been condemned to carry and give birth to a baby who had no chance at life.

I have been happily married for more than a decade, and I have two beautiful children. When my husband and I found out last year that I was pregnant again, we were overjoyed.

At 20 weeks, my husband and I went for our favorite prenatal visit: the detailed ultrasound anatomy scan that shows your baby’s heart, kidneys, bladder, stomach, spine and brain and whether you’re having a girl or a boy. I could barely contain myself as I sat on the exam table, eager to meet our baby more intimately. My husband and I chit-chatted with the ultrasound technician, gabbing and laughing when we recognized familiar features on the ultrasound images.

But after five minutes, only my husband and I were talking. The technician had grown quiet. She just kept printing picture after picture and pressing the wand deeper into the gel on my stomach.

Over the next week came referrals to high-risk pregnancy specialists and more, longer, in-depth ultrasounds. In our baby’s brain cavity, where gray matter should have been visible, there was only black. The diagnosis was the same from every doctor: Something — we would learn it was not genetic or chromosomal — had caused two leaks in our baby’s brain, one on each side, destroying it almost entirely.

We would have done anything to save the baby. We asked if there was any possibility for repair, if the brain tissue could regrow. There wasn’t. My baby would either die in the womb or shortly after birth.

Our child would never gain consciousness.

Our little one was gone.

I have never known horror quite like that. Adding to the pain, the brain stem was not affected, so the baby’s body was still moving involuntarily. But I knew there was no person in there anymore. I couldn’t sleep and could barely eat, and every time the baby jerked, I suffered and mourned.

I didn’t know what to tell my kids. They kept kissing my belly, feeling for kicks and singing to the baby. I didn’t know what words to choose, but it hardly mattered, because I couldn’t finish a sentence without sobbing.

Even after we made that decision, it was difficult to find an available provider, even in an area with as many medical providers as the District. The hospitals had weeks-long waits. In the end, we were able to schedule an appointment at a surgical clinic for the following week.

My pregnancy was 21 weeks on the day of my abortion.

I mourn the loss of my baby every day. But I have no doubt that I made the right decision for myself and my family, and I am grateful that it was my choice to make. …

Congress should not take this decision away from any woman — any family — who is in need. Banning abortions after 20 weeks would be arbitrary, and its consequences would place an unimaginable burden on women like me.

When an abortion was the best of only horrible options, I was beyond grateful that one was available in a safe, compassionate medical establishment. And that my family could begin to heal.

An incredibly sad story with no good options, only a range of horrible options. I find it hard to imagine someone can argue that the law should prevent this woman from making the choice she did.


Arguing against parental notification for teen abortions

September 8th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Karl du Fresne suggests the Care of Children Act 2004, which allows pregnant teens to seek abortion without notifying their parents, be changed to enforce parental notification.

He calls it a “modest request” (Politicians will run a mile, but our abortion laws encourage deceit, September 4).

It isn’t remotely modest. First, at age 15 and under, there is no practical difference between parental notification and parental consent, because parents have a high degree of physical control over their under-16s. This means parents could force their teens to become mothers. This has happened in the United States.

I don’t accept that assertion. It relies on several improbable things such as the parents being of such strong views that they would force their daughter into keeping the child, but also that they would basically keep her confined at home for several months. How likely is this? A couple of cases from the US is not proof that this would be at all common.

Also you could have notification after the event, not before.

Second, the law change is unnecessary because the vast majority of pregnant teens tell their parents. All counseling bodies involved with teens encourage it. The teens who don’t tell fall into two categories: those who fear physical and mental abuse, and those who are ashamed of disappointing their parents.

If the law is changed the first group will suffer harm, assault, homelessness, and even death so that the second group can enjoy the benefit of being forced to acknowledge their parents still love them. The benefit does not outweigh the harm.

What are the relative numbers in each category? How many would be abused by their parents? And couldn’t you have an exception for those who fear abuse? The author may have a point but nowhere does he actually try and measure the size of each group or the probability of benefit or harm.

Abortion and Downs

June 24th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Renate Lindeman writes at Stuff:

Upon delivering my first child 11 years ago, I heard the words “Down syndrome”, and my world collapsed. Visions of children sitting passively in a corner watching life go by, not participating, kept me awake those first nights as a mum.

It didn’t take me long, though, to figure out that my ideas were based on negative, outdated information that had nothing to do with the reality of life with Down syndrome today.

My daughter April is an active, outgoing girl. She’s my nature child, wildly passionate about anything with four legs. Although April uses few words, she’s a master communicator. Through her, I’ve learned that Down syndrome is not the scary, terrible condition it’s made out to be.

But while governments (rightly) ban gender selection, selective abortion continues to be encouraged for children with Down syndrome. In the United States and abroad, screenings are a routine part of healthcare programmes, and the result is the near-elimination of these children.

When pregnant with my daughter Hazel, tests showed she, too, would be born with Down syndrome. I was shocked when an acquaintance asked me why I did not choose abortion – as if she were a mistake that could be easily erased.

Although my personal prejudices have radically changed since the birth of my first daughter with Down syndrome, I realised that negative attitudes about the condition remain deeply rooted.

To many, my children and their cohort are examples of avoidable human suffering, as well as a financial burden. Knowing that individuals look at my daughters this way hurts, but seeing governments and medical professionals worldwide reinforce these prejudices by promoting selection is horrendous.

I think it is entirely a good thing if parents know in advance if the foetus, once born, will have Down syndrome. It allows them to make an informed decision.

That decision would be a very difficult and torturous one. I wouldn’t judge any people in this situation who have to make such a decision.

The unspoken but obvious message is that Down syndrome is something so unworthy that we would not want to wish it for our children or society.

I don’t read it like that. It is one of many conditions that can make life very very difficult for both the future child, and parents. Just like if you knew someone would be born with no limbs.

A 2013 study reports that parents are 2.5 times more likely to have a negative experience on receiving the initial Down syndrome diagnosis than to have a positive one.

Umm, would anyone have a positive experience?

The irony is that for a baby with Down syndrome born today, the outlook has never been better. Medical and social advances have radically changed what it means to live with Down syndrome.

Most people with Down syndrome are included in schools and communities. They live healthier, longer lives, and many adults live independently, have jobs and enjoy a rich social life. In 2013 a young woman with Down syndrome became Spain’s first councillor.

One study showed that the majority of people with Down syndrome report being happy and fulfilled, regardless of their functional skills.

This is why Downpride is calling on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to stop systematic screening for Down syndrome as part of public-health programmes and to regulate the introduction of prenatal genetic testing – testing should be used to enhance health and human wellbeing instead of discriminating against people based on their genetic predisposition.


I disagree respectfully.  I think an informed choice is a useful thing.

Abortion rate drops again

June 17th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ reports:

The number of abortions performed in New Zealand decreased in 2014, Statistics New Zealand said today. A total of 13,137 induced abortions were performed, which was 936 fewer than in 2013.

The general abortion rate (abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) decreased from 15.6 per 1,000 women in 2013 to 14.4 in 2014. This rate is the lowest it has been in over 20 years (in 1993 it was 14.3 per 1,000). The lower abortion rate indicates that the decrease in the number of abortions was due to fewer women having abortions, rather than to changes in the size or age structure of the population.  

I’ve graphed the data below:


As you can see the number and rate grew steadily until 2003. It was then fairly constant until 2007, and has been steadily dropping since.

This is a good thing.

It would be interesting to know what changed so that the number of abortions started to drop from 2007. Better education?  Better contraception? Less unprotected sex? Fewer women choosing an abortion? A combination of the above?

Parental information

May 28th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A mother whose teenage daughter attempted suicide after a secret abortion is asking the Government to change the law so underage girls won’t undergo terminations without their parents’ knowledge.

Hillary Kieft, of Stratford, Taranaki, presented a petition calling for an amendment to the law to Whanganui MP Chester Borrows on Monday.

Kieft and her husband Peter found out that their daughter, then 15, had had an abortion organised by her school, when she attempted suicide a year later in 2010.

Six years after the procedure, their daughter still suffered from depression, and was infertile, so would never be able to have children, Keift said.

At 15, their daughter was not mature enough to have made a genuinely informed decision on her own, she said.

The reason she hadn’t wanted to tell them about her pregnancy was because she was ashamed and scared, they found out later.

“She thought that we would be disappointed in her, just the normal family stuff.”

I do not believe there should be parental consent, but I do think that if the child is aged under 16, then the default setting should be for the parents to be notified. I think more harm is done by not having parents knowing and able to support their daughter, than the counter factual.

There should be an ability for a pregnant girl to not have their parents notified, if there are extenuating circumstances. But the default should be, I believe, that parents get notified – just as they would for any other medical procedure on someone aged under 16.

Teen abortions

April 28th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Young pregnant teens don’t have the mental maturity to understand the implications of an abortion, new research suggests.  

Parents should be involved in the abortion decision, rather than giving all girls, no matter what their age, the right to consent, Otago University masters law student Michael Morrison said.

The current “clumsy” legislation that allows teens to chose to have an abortion without their parent’s permission is outdated and should be repealed, he said.

 “We’re relying on an ancient piece of legislation.”

Morrison’s law and ethics essay, which argues this case, has won second place in an international academic writing competition.

The paper has been published in the latest edition of the Asian Bioethics Review.

In New Zealand children aged under 16 generally need their parent’s permission to undergo medical procedures, except when it comes to abortions.

This legislation means girls can consent to an abortion as long as they are sexually mature.

The abortion law came into effect in 1977 before experts had a full understanding of how a young person’s brain works, Morrison said.

However, he said international experts now agree a teenager’s brain only develops the ability understand a decision between the ages of 14 and 17.

About 50 girls aged between 11 and 14 have an abortion each year. There are also 2000 abortions in the age group 15 to 19.

Morrison said for the young girls who don’t tell their parents, they may not understand the long-term implications of their decision. 

“The child is trying to process a very significant procedure alone.”

Parents should be involved in the decision, something research has also shown most young people would want, he said.

“Children really do want their parents involved.”

The current law was developed with good intentions to protect children, but Morrison said it goes too far.

“It is incredibly clumsy and it is not based on our current knowledge on when children have the capacity to consent.”

A test case in the English courts found a child should have the right consent when they have the ability to understand the implications, which varies between teens.

A difficult issue. My views are:

  • Regardless of age, the final decision has to rest with the pregnant girl. She should not be forced to carry a pregnancy to term, against her will.
  • However if they are aged under 16, parents should be involved. I don’t think a parent can be doing their job if their under-wage daughter is having to make this decision, without their knowledge.
  • There will be some circumstances where it will be in the best interests of the pregnant girl to not have their parents informed – if they are likely to be abusive, or there may be incest etc.
  • Overall I favour doctors being required to inform parents if someone aged under 16 wishes to have an abortion, but with the ability for a family court judge to give waivers. Ultimately though the wishes of the pregnant girl should prevail over their parents, if they don’t agree.

The annual report of the Abortion Supervisory Committee

March 16th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The annual report of the Abortion Supervisory Committee is here.


Good to see the rate in New Zealand declining since 2007 – the only of the countries featured to be doing so significantly.

If one looks at the changes by age, the big fall has been 15 to 24 year olds. The number of abortions of 15 to 19 year olds has fallen from 4,097 in 2008 2,096 in 2013. A huge 50% decline.

For 20 to 24 year olds it has fallen from 5,396 to 4,386.

94% of abortions occur in the first trimester.  Les than 0.5% after 20 weeks.

0.3% of abortions are done due to danger to life, 0.7% due to danger to physical health, 1.4% due to a handicapped child and the rest 97.6% due to danger to mental health.

55% of those who had abortions were not using contraception, 25% were using condoms, 11% oral contraceptives.  A good reminder that many contraceptives are not infallible.


A blow against free speech at Oxford

November 21st, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Just read this article at Vox on how a debate about abortion at Oxford University was cancelled due to protests.

I’m pro-choice but I think it is deplorable that people should try and stop a debate on an issue. The person who got the event cancelled said:

The idea that in a free society absolutely everything should be open to debate has a detrimental effect on marginalised groups. Debating abortion as if its a topic to be mulled over and hypothesised on ignores the fact that this is not an abstract, academic issue.

How appalling. By her logic we should not debate immigration, welfare, or pretty much anything because they are not abstract academic issues. These are the issues we should be debating.

Abortion rights around the world

October 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian has a fascinating graphic showing abortion rights around the world.

I’ve summarised the data by region below.


4% of countries do not allow an abortion in any circumstance, even to save the mother’s life. They are Malta, the Holy See (which to be fair has few pregnant women), Chile, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua.

96% allow abortion to save the mother’s life.

Only 67% of countries allow abortion to prevent physical harm to the mother and 64% to prevent mental harm.

If the mother was raped, or it was incest, then that is lawful reason for an abortion in only 52% of countries. Foetal impairment is also a legal ground in only 52% of cases.

36% of countries allow abortion for economic or social reasons and 30% have abortion legally available on demand or request. The region with the most liberal abortion laws is Europe and Africa has the least. Oceania is low also, but in NZ we effectively have abortion on request – but not as a legal right.

Fewer abortions

June 23rd, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stats NZ has released the annual data on abortions. Some key facts:

  • 14,073 abortions – the lowest since 1995
  • The abortion rate per 1,000 population is 3.1 – also the lowest since 1988.
  • The number of abortions in 2000 was 16,103, in 2008 was 17,940 and in 2013 was 14,073
  • Sadly 48 under 15s had an abortion, but this is down from a peak of 105 in 2006
  • Teenage abortions down dramatically – from 4,277 in 2007 to 2,144 in 2013 – almost a 50% drop
  • 56% of abortions are in the first 9 weeks. 6% are after week 13.
  • Our general abortion rate (per 1,000 woman of child bearing age) is 16.1 which is lower than Sweden at 20.7 and England 16.4, but higher than Germany 7.4 and Netherland 8.5


Misrepresenting the current abortion law

June 12th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

As I previously blogged, I support changing the abortion law so that pregnant women don’t have to claim not having an abortion would be a threat to their mental (or physical) health. In practice we have abortion on demand, but now in law.

However misrepresenting the current law is wrong, as done by a Green Party staffer.


That is entirely wrong. The current law in no way says abortion is illegal full stop. Pro-life NZ points out the current law.

Now as I said, I agree with Leah, and disagree with Pro-life NZ, on changing the law. But I can’t condone such blatant mistruths being told about the current law.

Greens call for abortion law to reflect the practice

June 7th, 2014 at 7:12 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Greens have ratified a policy on abortion, which would get rid of a process a certified consultant says is “perfectly workable”.

Abortion is a crime under the Crimes Act, and is legal only if two consultants agree that the pregnancy would seriously harm the woman’s physical or mental health, or that there is a substantial risk the child would be born seriously disabled.

The Greens want abortion removed from the crime statutes, saying it would reduce stigma and judgment surrounding the procedure. This would mean a woman seeking one would not need external approval.

“The Green Party trusts women to make decisions that are best for them and their whanau/family,” women’s spokeswoman Jan Logie said.

The current practice and current law are out of sync. We effectively have abortion on demand in practice, but the law states that a woman has to prove damage to her mental health to have an abortion. I don’t know of any cases where this is not deemed proved, so it is just an unnecessary bureaucratic step,

Statistics from 2012, the latest available, showed 14,745 abortions were carried out in New Zealand, the lowest number since 1995. The median age of women having an abortion was 25 years and in 62 per cent of cases it was the woman’s first abortion. 

It’s good the numbers are falling. My view is abortion should be legal, safe and rare.

The issue is a conscience vote for most MPs. But if I was an MP, I’d support the Greens policy.

Providing a legal and sought after service

April 5th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

A fiercely anti-abortion lobby group is putting pressure on the National Party not to select an experienced doctor whose job has involved authorising and performing abortions.

Right to Life said the potential selection of medical practitioner Rosemary Fenwicke as a candidate in Wellington Central “would have serious consequences for the National Party at the forthcoming election”.

Abortion is legal in this country, and regardless of one’s personal views on it, I don’t see any issue with a candidate being a doctor who has performed a legal service that women have requested.

Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr said: “The National Party would be most unwise to nominate Dr Fenwicke for the Wellington Central electorate or any other electorate, or even for a place on the National Party list.

“Those in our community who defend a culture of life would be deeply concerned should Dr Fenwicke be nominated as a candidate for Parliament.”

He claimed that she supported abortions at any time during pregnancy “for any reason, or for no reason”.

I don’t believe that to be true. Can Orr provide a quote?

Dr Fenwicke has previously been the target of conservative MPs who unsuccessfully tried to prevent her from being elected to the Abortion Supervisory Committee in 2007.

Independent MP Gordon Copeland argued at the time that her appointment was a conflict of interest because in her roles as a consultant and surgeon she had power to both authorise and perform abortions.

The committee’s latest report in December showed abortion rates were at their lowest in 20 years.

The Wellington Central seat has been held by Labour since 1999. Labour MP Grant Robertson won it in 2011 with a 6376-vote majority over National’s candidate Paul Foster-Bell.

Mr Foster-Bell – who entered Parliament on the list in April – is seeking the nomination to represent National in Whangarei.

I can’t comment on who may seek that National nomination for Wellington Central as it is during the period when names can’t be revealed. But what I will say is that I don’t think someone’s day job should be a reason for people not to vote for them. Their views on political issues is a quite valid consideration, but I don’t think their job is.

Marama Davidson on abortion

March 30th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Marama Davidson writes:

Abortion is only legal if two consultants agree that there would be serious physical or mental harm to the woman’s health, or if the foetus has a serious disability. As a result, 99 per cent of abortions are approved on “mental health” grounds. This is a forced dishonesty that also requires women to justify our decisions. This is not a lightly made lifestyle choice.

I acknowledge that abortion is not the ideal solution to unplanned pregnancies. I support the continual plea for better education, improved access to contraception and more support for adoption and whangai avenues.

In an election year, we should demand that any government will decriminalise abortion. I and many others are not criminals. This is a healthcare matter. And for Lent we should give up judgment.

I agree that the current law is basically a sham, and the law should be changed to reflect the reality – which is abortion is the mother’s choice (at least in the early stages). However I don’t expect there would be any desire among most MPs to have an abortion law reform debate.

A sad case

January 18th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

With a ventilator slowly inflating her lungs and forcing oxygen into a bloodstream moved through her body by an artificial heartbeat, Marlise Munoz is unaware that she has become the focus of yet another American debate over what it is to live and die, and over abortion.

Marlise, a paramedic, was 33 years old and 14 weeks pregnant when she collapsed in November, probably from a pulmonary embolism, a fatal blood clot in a lung.

Her husband Erick, a firefighter, found her slumped on the kitchen floor in the middle of the night and called for help even as he fought to resuscitate her.

At the John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, doctors used drugs and electric shocks to restart her heart. They were too late. Doctors discovered that though machines were able to artificially maintain some of the mechanical processes of her body, Marlise’s brain was silent. She was dead, clinically and legally.

The family gathered by her bedside in the hospital’s three-storey intensive care unit and prepared to farewell her. They were stunned when doctors refused to turn off the ventilator.

Having detected a foetal heartbeat hospital authorities said they were bound by a Texas law that prohibits doctors from withholding “life-sustaining treatment” from a pregnant woman.

Erick protested. He and Marlise had lived their professional lives close to life and death and had discussed circumstances like these. Marlise did not want such artificial medical intervention. Marlise’s extended family and Erick’s colleagues agreed.

Marlise’s mother, Lynne Machado, 60, told The New York Times: “It’s about a matter of our daughter’s wishes not being honoured by the state of Texas.” Her father, Ernest Machado, 60, a former police officer, told the Dallas News: “That poor foetus had the same lack of oxygen, the same electric shocks, the same chemicals that got her heart going again. For all we know, it’s in the same condition that Marlise is in. All we want is to let her rest, to let her go to sleep. What they’re [the hospital staff] doing serves no purpose.”

This shows the problems of legislating in an area, where doctors and families should have discretion.

Assuming the courts do not over-rule the hospital, then we have three broad possible outcomes:

  1. The baby/feotus dies or is still-born, meaning Munoz was kept on life support for no reason for several months, causing huge anguish to her family.
  2. The baby is born, but is severely brain damaged. Who then looks after him or her?
  3. The baby is born and is healthy, and grows up learning that if his family had got their way, they would not have been born.

So whatever happens, the outcome looks to be pretty sad.


January 10th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

When her mind is clear, Gong Qifeng can recall how she begged for mercy. Several people pinned her head, arms, knees and ankles to a hospital bed before driving a syringe of labour-inducing drugs into her stomach.

She was seven months pregnant with what would have been her second boy. The drugs caused her to have a stillborn baby after 35 hours of excruciating pain. She was forced to have the abortion by officials in China’s southern province of Hunan in the name of complying with national limits on family size.

“It was the pain of my lifetime, worse than the pain of delivering a child. You cannot describe it,” Ms Gong, 25, said in a recent interview in Beijing. “And it has become a mental pain. I feel like a walking corpse.”

Forced abortions are considered an acceptable way of enforcing China’s population limits, but they are banned when the woman is more than five months pregnant. Yet no one has been held accountable for Ms Gong’s late-term abortion, and other women in similar cases also struggle to get justice and compensation.

The issue isn’t compensation, or when a forced abortion happens. The issue is that it is forced. No state should have the power to force a woman to abort. It is barbaric.

Although China in November announced an easing of its “one-child” policy to allow more couples to have a second child, the overall system remains in place and local governments are still required to keep to population quotas.

I don’t support population quotas or the euphemism that some parties use, of having a population policy.

Lowest abortion rate since 1995

June 19th, 2013 at 11:02 am by David Farrar

Stats NZ has announced:

The number of abortions performed in New Zealand decreased in 2012, Statistics New Zealand said today. A total of 14,745 induced abortions were performed in New Zealand in 2012, 1,118 fewer than in 2011.

The general abortion rate (abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years) decreased from 17.3 per 1,000 in 2011 to 16.1 in 2012. This rate is the lowest since 1995, when it was also 16.1 per 1,000. The lower abortion rate indicates that the decrease in the number of abortions was due to fewer women having abortions, rather than to changes in the size or age structure of the population.  

This is good. Abortion should be safe, legal and rarer.

The general abortion rate peaked in 2003 at 20.8. It is now 16.1, and has been dropping every year since 2007.

The ration of abortions to live births is 193 per 1,000, down from a peak of 247 in 2003. So it isn’t so much that there are less pregnancies, it is more than there are fewer abortions.

The drop appears to be amongst women having an abortion for the first time. The raw numbers have dropped 25% since 2003. However the numbers for women who have had two or more previous abortions have increased 4% since 2003.

Some differences by age also. The number of abortions for 11 to 14 year olds has dropped 43% since 2003 (from 89 to 51) and for 15 to 19 year olds dropped by 34%. However only a 10% drop for 25 to 29 year olds. This suggests to me that sex education for younger NZers is proving more effective.

An awful murderer

May 15th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

An American doctor may face the death penalty after being convicted of the gruesome killings of three babies shortly after their births in his filthy backstreet “abortion mill”.

Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of the first-degree murder of three newborn children, as well as the manslaughter of one of his patients.

A jury in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania also convicted the 72-year-old of carrying out 21 abortions later than the state’s limit of 24 weeks into pregnancy.

The court heard how Gosnell and his unqualified staff persuaded vulnerable women seeking abortions to give birth to live fetuses, whom they killed by “snipping” spinal cords.

What an awful man, and horrible case. Absolutely horrific.

Abortion and mental health

April 19th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand’s abortion laws should be changed to reflect the real reasons women decide to terminate unwanted pregnancies, Christchurch researchers say.

New research from the University of Otago, Christchurch, suggests abortion does not reduce the mental health risks of unwanted pregnancy.

I’m not surprised. If you have an unwanted pregnancy, it is highly stressful to either have an abortion or to have an unplanned child.

The best outcome is to reduce unwanted pregnancies.

Currently, abortion can only be performed legally in New Zealand if there is a risk to the mother’s physical or mental health or if the baby would have a serious disability.

About 98 per cent of abortions are performed on mental health grounds.


Lead researcher David Fergusson told The Press the review did not suggest abortion should be completely illegal but that the current laws should be changed to reflect the real reasons women sought abortions.

“These issues could be addressed if the wording of the current law was changed from ‘continuation of the pregnancy would pose a serious threat to the woman’s health’ to something along the lines that ‘continuation of the pregnancy would pose a serious threat to the woman’s physical, mental, educational, family or financial wellbeing’,” he said.

I agree. The current law does not reflect the practice, and in this case I think the law should be changed to reflect the reality.

Craig says he would vote for gay marriage if electorate backs it

February 20th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Isaac Davidson at NZ Herald reports:

Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is using his personal wealth to make a nationwide drop of leaflets which criticise MPs who do not follow their electorate’s wishes.

His office has published and distributed 200,000 leaflets at a cost of $55,000 – a figure which Mr Craig expects to double as he ramps up his party’s electioneering.

The leaflets have accused MPs of ignoring their electorates in making changes against the wishes of the majority, such as the anti-smacking bill and asset sales.

Mr Craig was especially critical of Prime Minister John Key for backing a bill to legalise same-sex marriage – a move he felt was out of tune with Mr Key’s Helensville electorate.

“This is not an insignificant issue. The majority of people genuinely feel their MP should be guided by their own electorate and not their own opinion.”

I disagree entirely. I quote (again) Edmund Burke:

Certainly, Gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasure, his satisfactions, to theirs,—and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.

But his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure,—no, nor from the law and the Constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

As much as I would personally benefit from MPs making all their decisions based on opinion polls, I think it is wrong. Public opinion is always something to be considered and of influence. But at the end of the day decisions should be made on the basis of whether you believe an action is good or bad.

Mr Craig said that if he was elected, he would vote for gay marriage if his electorate demanded it, in spite of his strong opposition to the law change.

Really? Honestly?

Okay so does this mean if Colin Craig was an electorate MP and a poll showed the majority of his electorate support abortion on demand, Colin Craig would vote for the law to be abortion on demand – no matter how strongly he personally feels it is murder?

I’d like to see an answer to that question. Would Colin Craig vote for abortion on demand if a majority of the electorate backed it?

I doubt it.

US views on abortion

January 29th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

When I was at the Gallup site, there was quite a few interesting polls on issues. This is their Roe v Wade graph over time.



Not a lot of change for 25 years of heat. Of course this is not the same as asking views on abortion laws, as you can be pro-choice and think Roe v Wade was a very bad judicial decision (as I do). But they ask on specifics:

  • Abortion legal under any circumstances 28%
  • Abortion illegal in all circumstances 18%
  • Abortion legal under certain circumstances 52%

So in fact only 18% of Americans think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. And while I am pro-choice I’m not sure even I would quite tick the  box legal under any circumstance as I would not support an eight month abortion unless the mother’s survival was an issue. Most Americans are actually in the fairly sensible middle.

So how about when abortions can happen. the results are:

  • 1st trimester 61% say should be legal
  • 2nd trimester 27% say should be legal
  • 3rd trimester 14% say should be legal

I’d be interested in seeing a similar question in NZ. The results might not be vastly different. I can’t imagine a huge number of people would say they support third trimester abortions. I note the official NZ stats indicate only 5% occur after the first trimester and that after 20 weeks, they will only occur if necessary to save life or stop serious permanent injury.

The point I’m trying to make is that while the issue is very political and volatile in the US, I’m not sure the overall opinion on legality is vastly different from NZ.

Finally they ask US respondents if they would call themselves pro-choice or pro-life and it is 48% pro-choice and 44% pro-life. What is interesting is the demographic differences of those who say they are pro-choice. They are:

  • No religion – 80% pro-choice
  • Democrat – 63%
  • Income > $75k – 58%
  • Under 30 – 54%
  • Women 50%
  • Men 47%
  • Catholics 48%
  • Republicans 28%

The small difference between men and women is unexpected (for me).