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.

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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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Ireland’s abortion laws

November 25th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Ireland has opened a new investigation into the death of a woman denied an abortion of her dying foetus, as the government scrambled to stem criticism of its handling of an incident that polarised the overwhelmingly Catholic country.

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year old dentist, was admitted to hospital in severe pain on October 21 and asked for a termination after doctors said her baby would not survive, according to husband Praveen. 

But in a country with some of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws, surgeons would not remove the foetus until its heartbeat stopped days later.

Husband Praveen Halappanavar, who believes the delay contributed to the blood poisoning that killed his wife on October 28, has said he would not cooperate with an investigation already launched by the country’s health service because he did not believe it would be neutral.

Barbaric. They knew the baby could not survive, but they still did nothing, with the mother then dying.

Ireland’s abortion stance is enshrined in a 1983 constitutional amendment that intended to ban abortion in all circumstances. In 1992, when challenged in the “X-case” involving a 14-year-old rape victim, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was permitted when the woman’s life was at risk, including from suicide.

I understand that many Irish women just travel to Northern Ireland to get abortions.

Opposition party Sinn Fein introduced a motion to parliament on Wednesday calling for parliament to legislate on abortion, but it was rejected.

“Successive governments over the past 20 years have failed in respect of legislation. That failure is in large measure due to fear or cowardice,” said Mary Lou McDonald, vice president of Sinn Fein.

Not often I agree with Sinn Fein.


Fewer teenage pregnancies

November 17th, 2012 at 7:16 am by David Farrar

Olivia Wannan at Stuff reports:

Once blamed for glamorising children having babies, teen pregnancy reality shows are now credited with a drop in New Zealand’s teenage pregnancy rates.

A new report from the Abortion Supervisory Committee suggested shows like 16 and Pregnant might deter unwanted pregnancies by depicting the struggle young people faced when raising children.

The show, and other spin-offs, chronicle the struggles girls face when they become pregnant while still in high school.

Never seen it, but yeah I imagine being confronted with the reality would be offputting.

Last year 4247 teenagers gave birth – down 387 from 2010, Statistics New Zealand figures show.

Teenage abortion rates fell as well, down 17 per cent from 2010.

That’s excellent to have both rates falling.


Republicans, rape and abortion

October 25th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Republicans are doing their best to allow the Democrats to hold onto the Senate. To follow up Todd Akin, we have:

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock is standing by his statement that when a woman becomes pregnant during a rape “that’s something God intended.”

Mourdock, who has been locked in one of the country’s most expensive and closely watched Senate races, was asked during the final minutes of a debate Tuesday night whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest.

“I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realise that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen,” Mourdock said.

Mourdock maintained at the news conference that he was misunderstood.

“I think that God can see beauty in every life,” Mourdock said. “Certainly, I did not intend to suggest that God wants rape, that God pushes people to rape, that God wants to support or condone evil in any way.”

How do such idiots become candidates for high office. Even if you agree with their viewpoint on not allowing abortion for rape victims, there are non-moronic ways to express that view. Here’s how they should answer the question:

  1. Don’t mention God at all. You’re standing for the Senate, not for Iman or Cardinal.
  2. Empathise with all women who have been raped and say it is a terrible crime, and some never recover from being violated. Get in a quick plug about how you support longer sentences for rapists.
  3. Say it is a terrible dilemma about what to do in such a situation, and how you don’t want rape victims re-victimised
  4. However say that two wrongs don’t make a right, and as much as your heart goes out to victims of rape, you don’t think killing an unborn child is ever justified, and you hope victims of rape will show the love and tolerance they did not receive, and allow the child to be born

Now I don’t agree with the above. I think it is appalling to not support exemptions for rape victims, and in fact I support abortion being a decision in all cases for the pregnant woman, not the state, so long as the fetus is not viable. However if a candidate said something along the lines of the above to justify their view, they at least wouldn’t come across as a lunatic who implies God condones rape. I know that isn’t what he meant, but his choice of words was so appalling, it was open to that interpretation.

A candidate for even a junior office, should have a prepared response on major issues memorised off by heart. To have Senate candidates shoot themselves in the foot so badly, is woeful amateur hour.

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A dinosaur Reublican

August 21st, 2012 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

There are times when I wonder that if I lived in the US, would I be able to be in the Republican Party, when they have candidates such as Todd Akin standing for the Senate.

I could never be a Democrat. The only left-wing party I think I could ever join would be the right faction of the NSW Labor Party :-)

I guess I could be a US Libertarian Party member, but I actually believe in achieving things. Anyway it is all academic, as I am happy here in NZ.

Fox News reports:Missouri Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin resisted calls to withdraw from the race Monday over his controversial comments on rape, despite mounting pressure from GOP leaders who roundly condemned his remarks and threatened to cut off funding. 

Up until this he was 9% ahead of the incumbent Democrat.

Akin, a six-term GOP congressman, is challenging Democratic Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill for her seat. His chances looked fairly sunny — up until he told an interviewer that a woman’s body can typically prevent pregnancy during a “legitimate rape,” as he argued against allowing abortions in cases of rape, claiming such pregnancies are uncommon in the first place. 

“It seems to me first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” 

How can an experienced politician, let alone a half decent human being, say something like that?

He basically just told every rape victim who got pregnant that their rape wasn’t real rape. Jesus Christ.

Sadly a fair proportion of rape victims do get pregnant to their rapist, and have the anguishing decision about what to then do.

One can have a legitimate debate on the legality of abortion, but you have to be a particular type of insensitive moron to make comments like Akin did.

Good to see the GOP dumping on him from a huge height. However the damage is done.

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A victory for free speech

July 19th, 2012 at 8:07 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Anti-abortion group ProLife has been allowed to stay as a club within the Auckland University Students’ Association despite complaints the group was harassing vulnerable students on campus.

The association had received two complaints about pamphlets containing “misinformed” health information on abortions being distributed by the group, and of students feeling harassed.

The association held a meeting yesterday to decide whether the group should be disaffiliated.

There was heated debate during the meeting, which attracted about 300 people, and students eventually voted 225 to 117 to allow the club to stay within the association.

ProLife New Zealand spokeswoman Rachel Wong disputed the club had done anything wrong in the first place.

She said the association failed to communicate with the club after receiving an “anonymous” and “unsubstantiated” email complaint.

The Right to Know pamphlet carries the slogan: “Hands up if you’ve heard this before: Abortion is a safe, simple medical procedure.”

Wong said the pamphlets, distributed for two weeks in May, were not confrontational.

“For us, the main issue is freedom of speech. Clubs should be able to voice their opinions at uni and express their ideas.”

I’m very glad AUSA members voted against disaffiliating Prolife. A university campus especially should be tolerant of unpopular speech.

Some advice for Prolife though – having the right to do something, doesn’t mean it is a good idea to do it. Personally I think handing out pamphlets on the health risks of abortions to random female students is not a great idea. You have the right to do so, but I doubt that tactic helps your cause much.

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Is there freedom of speech at Auckland University?

July 17th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Prolife NZ has said:

Prolife New Zealand (PLNZ) is alarmed at the fact that Auckland student club, Prolife Auckland, is this week facing the possibility of disaffiliation simply for engaging in an act of freedom of expression at the Auckland University campus. …

In May this year Auckland University student club ProLife Auckland, in a peaceful and non-confrontational manner, distributed a one-page leaflet titled ‘Right to Know’.

The pamphlet advocated for the right of women to know the common health risks associated with abortion and the alternatives available to them, so that they can make truly informed decisions when faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy. The campaign pamphlet was distributed by PLNZ clubs at universities across New Zealand and contained a link to a webpage with further information and resources.

On the basis of one single anonymous, unsubstantiated email allegation, claiming that the pamphlets contained ‘misleading health information’ and ‘lies about health procedures’, the AUSA called a Special General Meeting (SGM) to disaffiliate student club Prolife Auckland.

Not only was this allegation never properly investigated by the AUSA, and the AUSA deliberations regarding this matter conducted in secrecy, but Prolife Auckland were never even informed that an SGM had been called to disaffiliate them – they found this out by sheer chance a week after the decision had been made by the AUSA.

More importantly, the claims of ‘misleading health information’ still remain completely unproven, in fact the medical statements in the pamphlet are supported by reference footnotes to a number of reputable medical journals.

Since Prolife Auckland’s inception it has come up against unwarranted resistance and intimidation at the University of Auckland. This is in contrast to PLNZ’s other branches at Victoria, Canterbury and Massey University in Palmerston North, which have been permitted to peaceably contribute to the free exchange of ideas on campus without fear of reprisal – the cornerstone of academic freedom.

This attempt to ban ProLife Auckland and the complete disregard for natural justice in this case, only serves to further highlight the prejudice of an intolerant minority against the affiliation of pro-life clubs at the University of Auckland. Most alarmingly, it shows that certain members of the AUSA Executive are willing to deny students their human right to freedom of expression simply for peacefully expressing themselves on campus.

I am pro-choice, not pro-life (to use their term). If I was on campus and someone handed me a flyer informing me of the health risks of abortion, I would probably politely suggest they should procreate with themselves.

However I absolutely defend their right to not just hold their views, but to promote them. On a university campus especially, freedom of speech should be the paramount value.

AUSA should not be deciding if the pamphlets have “misleading health information” any more than they should decide if political party pamphlets are misleading. Would they disaffiliate (for example) Princes Street Labour if someone complained about one of their pamphlets. If material is misleading, there are a number of regulatory bodies that can be complained to. It is not a decision for a small group of student politicians.

I would comment to all AUSA members the words of Noam Chomsky:

“with regard to freedom of speech there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards”

I hope that all those who disagree with the views of ProlifeNZ still defend their right to express their views and be able to operate on campus as an affiliated club.

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Abortion stats

June 20th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stats NZ has published the annual abortion stats. Looking at the graph the abortion rate seems to have been dropping since 2007 and is now a 12 year low.

The abortion rate per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 has dropped to 3.6 – it was last this low in 1994.

In terms of pregnancies, 1.7% of pregnancies end in a termination. That is a pretty low rate.

62% of women who had an abortion, had never had one previously. 13% had two or more previously. This rate is growing – it was 10% a decade ago.

18.2% of abortions are on teenagers. 28.1% are to those aged over 30.

The age range with the highest abortion rate is 20 to 24 year olds and then 25 to 29 year olds.

45% of women having an abortion have no chidren. 55% have at least one child and 34% have at least two.

94.3% of pregnancies occur within 13 weeks.  55% are within 9 weeks.

They supply crude numbers of abortions by ethnicity, not not the rate by ethnicity. A quick contrast to the population states finds that Maori, Pacific and Asian ethnicities both have around double the abortion rate of Europeans. The Middle East, Latin American and African rate is around 1.5 times the European one only.

Finally we have the abortion rate (per 1,000 women 15 – 44) by country:

  1. Germany 7.3
  2. Netherland 8.7
  3. Finland 10.2
  4. Scotland 12.3
  5. Denmark 15.5
  6. Norway 16.2
  7. England 17.1
  8. France 17.2
  9. NZ 18.1
  10. US 19.6
  11. Sweden 20.9

It would be interesting to see a fuller set of international data.


Conscience issues

April 23rd, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance in a lengthy article looks at three controversial conscience issues which are unlikely to be debated by Parliament unless a member’s bill on them is drawn. They are euthanasia, gay adoption and abortion.

My positions on the three issues are:

  • Euthanasia should be legal under strictly defined circumstances
  • Abortion should be legally available on demand (which is the practice but not the law) up until the point where the foetus or unborn child could live unassisted
  • Same sex couples should be able to adopt
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Du Fresne on Abortion

March 13th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes in the Dom Post:

When I read recently that two medical ethicists had suggested it should be legal to kill newborn babies, my first thought was that they must be anti-abortion campaigners choosing an unusually dramatic way to make their point.

After all, what’s the difference, ethically speaking, between aborting a baby at 20 weeks’ gestation or waiting until it’s born, then quietly suffocating it or administering a lethal injection? None that I can see.

Ethically speaking, the difference is that at 20 weeks, it can not survive outside the mother’s womb, and the mother has rights over her womb. This is the flaw in Karl’s entire column, and the research he refers to. Both totally skip over any discussion of the rights of a woman over her womb. One can only presume they think women have no rights over their wombs once they are pregnant. Now that is a legitimate view to have, but not one many share.

I believe that a foetus or unborn child does have some rights. And a mother also has some rights. The challenge is balancing those rights out. I have little time for those who say a mother has no rights at all, and likewise for those who say a foetus has no rights at all, and it is okay to abort at say eight and a half months.

Newborns aren’t actual persons, they suggest, merely potential persons. Neither the foetus nor the newborn baby is a person with a moral right to life. Only actual persons can be harmed by being killed.

It’s a proposition that would shock decent people. Yet it exposes the fundamental flaw, both logical and moral, behind liberal abortion laws such as those that apply in New Zealand.

Most people who think it’s OK to abort babies in the womb would recoil in horror at the thought of snuffing their lives out once they’ve been born.

And that is because they are now capable of independent life. I do not accept that an egg one second after fertilisation has the same rights as a baby.

But I ask again, what’s the difference? Some babies that are legally aborted under present law (there were 16,630 in 2010) have reached a stage in their development when they are capable, with intensive medical care, of surviving outside the womb.

Newborn babies also need intervention to survive. So at what point do we decide a baby has a right to life  at six months old, one year, only when it’s capable of feeding itself and walking?

There are a fer borderline cases, but generally abortions take place (as they should) before they can survive outside the womb.

Yet the Australian state of Victoria already allows babies to be aborted right up to the time of birth and pro-abortion lobbyists would like the same law adopted here. It’s only a short step from there to infanticide.

Which pro-abortion lobbyists are these? Can Karl name an organisation lobbying for this? He may be right, but I am unsure whom he is referring to.

He is right that Victoria’s laws are very permissive, with abortion on demand up until 24 weeks and needing two doctors to consent after considering a woman’s current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances. I think only serious physical danger to the mother should be a reasons for what is commonly called a late term abortion.

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When does life begin?

March 2nd, 2012 at 9:08 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Killing newborns is morally the same as abortion and should be permissible if the mother wishes it, Australian philosophers have argued in an article that has unleashed a firestorm of criticism and forced the British Medical Journal to defend its publication.

Alberto Giubilini, from Monash University, and Francesca Minerva, from the University of Melbourne, say a foetus and a newborn are equivalent in their lack of a sense of their own life and aspiration. They contend this justifies what they call “after-birth abortion” as long as it is painless, because the baby is not harmed by missing out on a life it cannot conceptualise.

The first flaw in their arguments is that it is not legal to abort a foetus, once it is capable of surviving outside the womb. Abortion is legal because a mother has rights over her womb which trump that of the foetus. Those rights disappear once  the foetus can survive outside the womb, and most definitely after they have left the womb.

About a third of infants with Down syndrome are not diagnosed prenatally, Drs Giubilini and Minerva say, and mothers of children with serious abnormalities should have the chance to end the child’s life after, as well as before, birth.

But this should also extend to healthy infants, the pair argue in the BMJ group’s Journal of Medical Ethics, because the interests of a mother who is unwilling to care for it outweigh a baby’s claims.

Putting aside for one moment the main issue, why on earth would the mother have the right to decide, and not both parents? Again once the baby has been born, the parents have equal rights.

On the main issue, I think the proposal is horrific. The precedent it creates is monstrous.

It is worth noting the authors seem to be from the School of Philosophy, not medical doctors.

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