BY AZARIA HOWELL
New anti-abortion laws across the United States feel as if they’re a great step backwards, yet abortion is still a component of the Crimes Act in the land of the long white cloud. We criticize the fact that Alabama recently passed a Bill to ban abortion, or that Missouri threatened to close the only abortion clinic in their state, and the fact that it is the elephant in the room during the 2020 Democrat debates. Whilst we must call out global threats to the rights of women, it is crucial that we consider the restrictive abortion policies in New Zealand, too.
The New Zealand law regarding abortion states that a woman will be granted an abortion if given consent by two doctors, and only if the pregnancy would cause a serious level of mental and physical distress. After 20 weeks of a pregnancy, a woman will only be granted access to an abortion if having a child would cause physical and mental harm to the mother- all other reasons to have an abortion are rejected.
Therefore, in our current system, thousands of women have to lie about their mental health or medical conditions to be able to have an abortion. And, although this means that abortions can be accessed if you know how to lie, it’s not an ideal, truly accessible system.
Protestors have recently been calling on the Government to change this law, and petitions to remove abortion from the Crimes Act have amassed thousands of signatures – it’s clearly a law which is due for a change.
Even though calling for abortion reform could lose the Government a few votes along the line, it’d be worth it. Abortion reform policy for 2019 has been released by Labour, decriminalising abortion access for up to 20 weeks. This move has been called out by anti-abortion activists (unsurprisingly), but has also been criticised for not going far enough, as it does not allow later-term abortions.
Making abortion illegal doesn’t actually stop abortions from occurring – it stops them from being safe and controlled. It tears the confidence away from women, bit by bit, until they feel like criminals, locked behind the bars of shame for making a medical choice. The words opposing abortion, found deep within the Crimes Act of 1961, will be forever imprinted on a woman’s’ mind until lawmakers finally cross them out.
Women shouldn’t have to feel like criminals for making a medical choice. Anti-abortion protest groups deny this right by protesting outside of hospitals and family planning clinics. Every hateful word thrown at them, every anti-abortion sign shoved in their face, and every social media post designed to shame women is another prison sentence for someone’s mental health. Anti-abortion protesters make the choice even harder for wāhine.
Critics of abortion law reform should recognise that this is an issue of free choice. If someone is opposed to abortion, they don’t need to have one. However, we shouldn’t be locking women up for accessing abortion – even if it is past the 20-week threshold. This is a matter of human rights and healthcare, and of free choice and women’s’ voices.
Until every abortion in New Zealand is safe and legal, I will not be silent.
Tearaway is all about giving young people a platform to express themselves, from all points of view; we encourage diversity of opinions, provided they are expressed with respect for those who differ. The opinions expressed may or may not be those of the Tearaway editorial team and Management.
AZARIA HOWELL is a huge politics nerd living in Christchurch. Expect lots of new political articles on Tearaway from her! She also loves snowboarding, Beagles, and wearing clunky boots.
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