Our unborn babies will lose their legal rights

Our unborn babies will lose their legal rights if Parliament passes the Abortion Legislation Bill in the form proposed by a select committee, New Zealand’s Catholic bishops say.

Their existing rights are already tenuous, the bishops note.

The legislation offers infants with foetal disabilities even less protection than they have under the current law.

Speaking on the  bishops’ behalf, Catholic lecturer at Te Kupenga – the Catholic Leadership Institute, Cynthia Piper, said an unborn child is entitled to a place in the human family.

This includes all the rights that go with that.

“In the womb, the child already has its own unique genetic identity and whakapapa.”

“Our abortion laws must reflect this reality,” Piper says.

“It is a major failing of the proposed new law that there will no longer be any statutory requirement to consider the rights of the unborn child. That is totally unacceptable to the bishops and many New Zealanders.”

Parliament’s Abortion Legislation Select Committee has recommended enacting a new law that removes the need for any statutory tests for an abortion up to 20 weeks gestation.

This is effectively introducing abortion on demand, Piper says.

In cases where the pregnancy is over 20 weeks, the Select Committee recommends a health practitioner would need to reasonably believe the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances.

The woman’s physical, mental health and well-being would be considered.

But Piper says the criteria are undefined, subjective and broad.

Another of the bishops’ concerns is the proposed bill removes all references to foetal abnormalities.

The existing law cites them as a reason for abortion up to 20 weeks, but not after.

“It is clear that the legal changes being proposed for pregnancies greater than 20 weeks will significantly widen the ability for a woman to have an abortion on the basis of disability,” Piper says.

“That represents a significant change from the current law which does not allow late term abortions on the basis of fetal abnormality.”

The bishops fear the proposed changes will harm women’s well-being.

Piper says she has worked with many women who have had abortions and experienced long-lasting negative effects, especially when they felt pressured into having an abortion.

“The coercive reality of societal, familial and economic pressures that arise when a woman suddenly finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy is well documented.”

“The select committee itself acknowledges that they heard from several submitters, particularly young women, who believed they might not have chosen abortion if they had received more support.”

“But what is being proposed will not help women in this situation make different decisions.”

The select committee received 25,718 written submissions on the proposed law change. Over 90 per cent were opposed.


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