Womens rights to an abortion

By Tema Hemi

Women's sovereignty over their own bodies was the call today from the hundreds who showed up at parliament grounds in support of women's reproductive rights.  

Among them was advocate Dame Margaret Sparrow, who has made it her life's work to support women's access to birth control and the right to legal abortions.

Sparrow says, "I think that for the first time in 41 years ... we can see perhaps some progress, I hope so anyway.  It depends on what happens in government but we've got a very good blueprint in the Law Commission report and a prime minister who believes abortion is a health issue, not a crime."

The protesters gathered today want to see significant changes to laws pertaining to abortion.  However, some disagree.

Brian Whitaker of Kāpiti Voice of Life says, "We're opposed to it just being a health issue because killing a baby is not the same as having an appendix or a tonsil [removed] or any other of those health issues."

Current New Zealand law allows for abortions if  the abortion is approved by two certifying consultants and is undertaken to save the life of the mother and to preserve her physical health. 

Family Planning's Jackie Edmonds says, "For some women this is a massive decision, it's a significant decision in their lives and they should be able to make that in consultation with their health practitioner, with their whānau and with their support system."

However Whitaker is adamant that the issue is the health of the foetus. 

"We live in a society which always regards the killing of children as a crime. That's why its in the Crimes Act," he says.

 Green MP Jan Logie says the Greens are right behind the protest and women's rights to an abortion. 

"We support decriminalising abortion.  We've had a policy on that for quite a few years now and we are supporting a model that is entirely healthcare based and trusting women and their whānau."

 Sparrow believes that times have changed since the Crimes Act dealt with the issue, "Society has really changed a lot since these laws were passed, a lot has happened in 41 years and women's lives are very different now."

Sparrow would like to see the Abortions Supervisory Committee replaced by the Department of Health.