In Defence of Our Current Abortion Laws

Alex Eastwood-Williams

The government has announced that it plans to introduce reforms to New Zealand's abortion law reforms. This is an emotive topic, and it's not one I particularly want to write about, but I cannot in all good conscience remain silent on the issue. 

From the outset, let me make my position clear: I am not here to present an anti-abortion argument. No doubt you've seen it all before, and my friend Dieuwe wrote a particularly good one at the end of the last year.

I am arguing for the retention of the status quo, nothing more and nothing less. 

By the standards of an extremely left-wing country like New Zealand, no doubt I will be described as if I'm some sort of pro-life extremist, though in many other parts of the world my views would probably see me lumped in with the pro-choice crowd. 

My view on abortion is, to use a nasty old cliche, that it should be safe, legal and rare. 

I am not someone who believes that all abortion should be banned. I understand the views of those who do, and I'm certainly more pro-life than is fashionable in this day and age, but I'm not here to tell you that abortion is murder, or to cast judgement on those who perform or receive them.

For the record, I am irreligious and my perspective on this issue is from a position of rationalism, with my rationale being as follows:

1. Personhood is automatic. It is not a social construct. You are a human from the moment you are conceived.
2. I'd prefer to live in a society in which killing other people is strongly discouraged, and better yet illegal.
3. The unborn are human and should therefore be subject to the same legal protections as everyone else.
4. If we are going to make any exceptions to the above, there had better be a damn good reason why. 

Needless to say, I am vehemently opposed to the government's planned law reforms. The Ardern regime, in a frenzy of ideology, is ripping up abortion laws which actually we should be very proud of, and holding up to the rest of the world as an example. 

The reason I'm so fond of the status quo, and so eager to defend it, is because we are one of the few western countries with abortion laws that strike a reasonable compromise between the need to protect the health and well-being of the mother, and the need to protect the rights of the unborn.

The government's proposed law change will completely remove the latter protection, and what's worse is that it seems that the government has bought into the dangerous ideology that an unborn fetus is not a human being. 

Those who make this argument do so based on a position that humanity is a social construction, one which can only be endowed upon you by legal recognition. It is a belief that humanity is not universal, and history has taught us time and again that this is a very dangerous belief to hold.

I don't mean to invoke Godwin's law here, but the argument the humanity is a social construct and not universal has been the basis of some of the worst genocides we have ever witnessed as a species. To dehumanise the unborn is the first step on the road to dehumanising other people. 

To claim that for the first 20 weeks of your existence (a number chosen arbitrarily) you are not human and therefore not deserving of any form of protection is an utterly absurd proposition, with no basis in fact and no basis in logic.  

The next question to consider is whether abortion should remain in the Crimes Act. It turns out, this is a moot point: Abortion isn't in the Crimes Act, and under the status quo it is treated as a health issue. 

The changes the government are proposing will not see abortion treated as a health issue, as they claim is their desire, but rather remove the healthcare aspect from the equation altogether. It is a piece of ideologically driven legislation by those who believe that an unborn human is not a human and who wish to deny and downplay the consequences of taking a human life. 

For the record, I do not want to see anyone criminally punished for terminating a pregnancy - but there needs to remain in place a legislative means to deter those who would seek to use abortion as if it were just an alternative to contraception. 

Abortion is something that should be a last resort, and by keeping in place the current statutory testing regime, we are ensuring that it remains something that is not taken lightly by society and reminding people of the gravity of such a decision. 

But to reiterate - I am not at all suggesting that abortion should be banned, or that existing laws should be tightened the other way. I can accept and understand that there are real circumstances in which a pregnancy would place an intolerable amount of strain on someone's physical or mental health and that in these circumstances termination of said pregnancy is justified.

The status quo allows this - it allows those who need to end a pregnancy to do so while ensuring that it is only ever taken as an act of last resort. 

Leaving aside the abortion argument for the moment, there is another part of the proposed law change that has particularly alarmed me: That is the inclusion of a clause which will create a 105 metre "safe zone" around clinics preventing protest or stopping those who oppose abortion from distributing literature to people entering the premises. 

I will admit that taken in isolation, this almost seems reasonable to a point.

The decision to end a pregnancy is not an easy one, and often a very psychologically damaging one - I've known enough people who have had to make that decision to know that they will be dealing with enough of their own feelings of guilt and grief. The last thing they need is a bunch of self-righteous people like me pointing their fingers and condemning them, without any understanding of them or their circumstances. Believe me, I get it. 

However, preventing people from peacefully and quietly handing out literature (which by the way you can choose to decline - no one is forcing you to take a pamphlet) simply to allow someone the opportunity to reconsider their decision or see it from another angle, and to have government legislation making such a restriction is a pretty blatant and ideologically driven attack on the right to freedom of expression.

And while I might have been inclined to let it slide if it were a one-off, it appears this is just another episode in Justice Minister Andrew Little's ongoing crusade against the basic civil liberties of New Zealanders.

Once again, it seems this government is hell-bent on dismantling the right to freedom of speech, slowly and incrementally. However that's a matter that would take an entire article or two to discuss, and one best left to someone more energetic and forceful than myself. 

But to return to the central theme: There is nothing wrong with the laws we have on abortion in New Zealand right now. They are not out of date, and they represent the best compromise between the interests of the pro-abortion and anti-abortion side that any legislation could possibly offer. 

I am under no illusions of course that an obscure blog by a reclusive author on a weird corner of the internet will persuade anyone, or prevent the passage of this legislation. Even if it were to go a nationwide referendum, I believe that it would still pass considering that the mainstream media have presented an incredibly one-sided view of the issue and it's not an issue that keeps most New Zealanders up at night anyway. 

And I accept that there are those who will argue that, as a man, I have absolutely no right to have an opinion on what is presented (falsely) as a purely female issue.

But those people are wrong, because abortion does effect everyone and I have a perfectly valid reason why this issue affects me personally:

If these proposed reforms had taken place 30 years ago, I would not be here writing this article.