Found while looking for other things in the dark, judgey hole in the soul of the Internet that is the Voice for Life NZ site: an article – copy-pasted from American antichoice sites, because that’s how religious extremists roll – entitled
I was actually kind of interested, because it’s a bold proposition: ending all abortion before Christmas.
Turns out it’s a lie on two counts, because it’s not about ending all abortions, and most of the 25 items will have no effect on abortion whatsoever. The others aren’t really things ethical people should do, but that’s obviously not going to bother antichoicers.
The list breaks down like this:
- Generic activist stuff, much of which will probably target abortion clinics: 14
- Specifically harass clinic workers and their patients: 4
- Volunteer at lying, bullying crisis pregnancy centres: 3
- Idolize dead foetal tissue (probably in front of clinics): 1
- Fund antichoice groups: 1
- Feel totally smug about being antichoice: 1
- Actually support people who choose to continue pregnancy: 1
No support for comprehensive sex education, which is proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies. No donations to Planned Parenthood to provide contraception for people, which is proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies. Nope, just more of the same bullying and lobbying and pats-on-the-back for the upstanding warriors fighting the good fight to punish people for sex they don’t approve of.
That one item about supporting people – specifically, single mothers, because couples never have a hard time providing for a child – is number 24 on the list, and actually reads “Be a witness to the joy of life by helping out single moms who chose life.” Because why would you help a struggling parent if you weren’t getting a good smug-vibe from it?
The best bit? VFL illustrates the article with a photo of a headless pregnant person with their tummy wrapped in a bow. Because pregnant people aren’t just non-people with no face, identity, or autonomy, they’re also just the giftwrap for a ~sacred unborn child~.
And we all know what happens to giftwrap after the present arrives, right?
Antichoicers: treating pregnant people like trash.
‘I’ve got four years’ good conduct, I have-‘
‘No, that was four years’ Not Found Out,’ said Vimes.
- Terry Pratchett, Night Watch
An unnamed teacher at an unnamed Catholic high school has been disciplined after calling one of her students a “slut” and – in a move which really doesn’t seem to be outraging people as much as it should – scornfully referring to that student having an abortion.
As Coley put it,
It’s interesting that a lot of the commentary about the teacher who called her student a slut hasn’t mentioned that the teacher was holding /
A class on abortion being evil knowing at least one of her students had terminated a pregnancy. And made her stand on a chair 4 not behaving
The teacher has not been barred from teaching again, because apparently we excuse gross breaches of people’s privacy if they’re tired and emotional and have:
a previously unblemished record.
The above quote from Pratchett’s excellent novel Night Watch sprang to mind, for obvious reasons.
Let me illuminate the point with some personal anecdata. At my Catholic high school – and if I ever find out this is the same one I’m going to have some fucking unladylike words to say – some girls were told in an RE class that if they didn’t believe in God they would go to hell. And when they told another teacher that – several of them with the exact same story, mind – they were told “no, [X] wouldn’t have said that.” Never mind that several girls from the same class were all saying they’d been told the same thing, it was simply hand-waved away on the basis that it couldn’t possibly have happened.
It probably helps that no one left the class in tears, or – and I have to guess here because the story has very few details – has parents who won’t accept that kind of shit, or an ally on the staff.
The opening paragraph of the Herald article says the teacher “[referred] to her having an abortion in front of classmates”. Think about that framing. It’s as though the problem is she let some little secret slip, or that it was only problematic because other people were there. And let’s compare that with what the teacher actually said:
The teacher said words similar to “stop acting like a S-L-U-T” …The teacher then referred to the girl being pregnant and said words to the effect of “if you think having an abortion makes you an adult then it doesn’t”
And let’s remember that this is a Year 10 class, and let’s think the fact that the pupils in that class are 14-to-15-years old, and let’s consider how vicious and unethical a person you have to be to:
- Know a pupil in your charge who is under the age of consent has had an abortion
- Force her to sit through a lesson about “Pope John Paul II’s stance on abortion” (spoiler: used the phrase “culture of death” a lot) – or not even have enough empathy to think about how it would affect her
- When she (strangely enough) gets disruptive, punish her and – because you really want to demean her – not only call her a slut but spell it out like she’s a toddler having a B-A-T-H
- Throw the fact she’s had an abortion back in her face – right after a class which has happily laid the ground for everyone to feel moral and righteous about judging and persecuting people who have abortions
I feel quite comfortable stating that this person shouldn’t be allowed near young women, much less in charge of them.
But all she gets is a slap on the wrist and a ruling to “inform” any future employers about what she did. Like that’s going to hurt her employment chances.
Remember, it’s the antichoicers who are the compassionate, moral ones, and us nasty feminists who actually hate women.
First things first: lump of coal to Stuff for publishing an article with an alarmist headline based on shitty research into abortion and mental health, which I’ve blogged about before. (A tinier lump of coal labelled “old news, much?” will be delivered in five months’ time.)
But today’s post is not about that shitty research. It’s about the comments of Dame Linda Holloway, chair of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, and apparently no fucking ally to pregnant people.
Dame Linda Holloway, the chairwoman of the committee, said any move towards liberalisation would be a “difficult political argument and from a pro choice position it doesn’t really matter”.
Doesn’t really matter? It doesn’t really matter than pregnant people are treated like they’re incapable of making their own decisions, that they have to get permission like they’re schoolchildren on a field trip, that they may not have accessible services in their own area and have to travel, sometimes overnight, to get a very safe and very normal medical procedure done?
I don’t know how Dame Linda Holloway defines “a pro choice position” but it’s not one I’d sign up to.
“The chance of changing the abortion laws in New Zealand at this time are sub-zero. At the moment we have assured successive ministers of justice that we can operate under the law as it is.
It’s so fantastic that these two sentences are right next to each other. Gee, do you think maybe the lack of political will to change our archaic, condescending abortions laws might have anything to do with those “assurances”? Think you might be playing the smallest part in ensuring that pregnant New Zealanders are
“If we start opening the whole thing up to do new legislation my concern is that we might end up with something that is worse than what we have got. The chances of that are quite high.”
I guess I have to give this much: Dame Linda Holloway, as chair of the ASC, is under constant attack from the likes of Right to
Control Your Life. So maybe this has given her the impression that the antichoice feeling in New Zealand is overwhelming.
I talk about abortion a lot, and my perspective is that while a lot of people think it’s icky and don’t want to talk about it, as soon as you say “did you know that abortion is still a crime in New Zealand?” much less “did you know pregnant people are still regularly travelling to Australia to get abortions?” they’re very much on board with updating our laws. Sometimes you literally have to argue with people who insist we have abortion-on-demand – and articles like this one don’t really fucking help, so another lump of coal to Stuff for propagating bullshit myths which oppress pregnant people. But once the facts are explained? The majority of people still don’t really want to think about it, but they are, at a basic level, prochoice.
Holloway said she would prefer to “soldier on”.
“If I thought we could get a perfect world I would be all for it.”
Bully for you, person-who-doesn’t-have-to-raise-money-to-fly-to-Australia-for-an-abortion. Perfection or nothing, that’s a fantastic way to approach things. The staggering irony is that the antichoice movement, especially in the US but also here, have demonstrated the terrible effectiveness of not demanding perfection or nothing. They (or at least, the moderately-douchey ones) don’t say “illegalise abortion, nothing else will do”. They start with “oh, parents should be notified, you’d want to know if it was your child!” and “maybe you should have to wait a week to properly consider things” and “oh you really should have to have an ultrasound beforehand so you really understand what you’re doing.”
We probably can’t get free universally-accessible holistic-care abortions-for-all in one go. But we can at least start by taking abortion out of the Crimes Act and removing the need to get Mummy and Daddy to sign your permission slip.
At the very fucking least, let’s stop making it easier for antichoicers to lie about the situation in NZ, could we?
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 19 July 2013.
On Back Benches this week, Holly Walker cemented her position as one of the most badass MPs in the House by saying the following:
I’ve been thinking…as I approach the end of my pregnancy that I’m really lucky to have a lot of choices about what’s best for me and my body and my baby. Unfortunately a lot of women at the beginning of an unwanted pregnancy don’t have the same degree of choice and control. Now recently Wendy Davis stood up for 13 hours in the Texas senate to stand up for a woman’s right to choose. And we’ve shown in New Zealand that we can work together cross-party on these sensitive issues to update the law and I think it’s time to start the cross-party conversation on modernising our abortion law in New Zealand.
H/T ALRANZ for the transcript.
It’s a huge step forward for the prochoice movement, having a vocal, unashamed, and – because really, it’s a hugely powerful symbol – pregnant advocate for abortion law reform.
The downer is that more and more we’re coming to see how absolutely fucked up our archaic, judgey abortion laws are, and how they endanger the health of pregnant people.
Because it’s not enough to know that abortion is a crime in New Zealand, with strict procedures around when it’s permissible.
It’s not enough that pregnant people aren’t trusted to make their own decisions, and have to justify and plead with multiple consultants in order to get the procedure signed off. (Imagine if they implemented the same process for vasectomies.)
It’s not enough that rape isn’t considered sufficient grounds for an abortion – and it’s not enough that the reason for that is our 1970s, almost-entirely-white-male, Parliament thought women would just lie about rape to get abortions.
No, this week another shoe dropped, thanks to the tireless work of ALRANZ, who revealed that most pregnant people seeking abortions in New Zealand, after jumping through all the hoops, will still be forced to undergo an ultrasound. An ultrasound which may not even be medically necessary (and would be even less necessary if we didn’t have all those hoops, which mean abortions are being performed later in pregnancy.)
So if you’re a pregnant teen in Westport, not only do you have to find two certifying consultants you trust to talk to about abortion, then convince them that you tick all the boxes set down by men who were old and judgemental before you were even born, not only do you have to travel to Christchurch for your procedure (time off work or out of school and god help you if the clinic’s shut that day) but you also have to undergo a scan. And you have to be told that you may look at the scan. Because what you really really need at that point is to have an entire society’s baggage about pregnancy and ultrasound and the ~miracle of life~ dropped on your head.
There’s only one solution: clear, straight up reform of our abortion laws. Get abortion out of the Crimes Act. Scrap the humiliating justifications. Let pregnant people make their own decisions.
Don’t like it? Don’t get an abortion when you’re pregnant.
(Unless of course it’s different when you need it.)
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 31 May 2013.
Today, 31/3/13, marks the fourth anniversary of the murder of Dr George Tiller, a man who despite very real threats to his own life and safety provided safe, legal late-term abortions to the women of Kansas.
Late-term abortion is one of the contentious issues even within prochoice discussions. People just inherently find it “icky” – even more so than abortion in general. A lot of that probably has to do with the way the abortion debate has been framed for so long in an attempt to make it as palatable as possible – focusing on the very early, non-baby-like stages of pregnancy.
Yet that’s not a misrepresentation. The vast majority of abortions do occur early in pregnancy.
New Zealand has a soft limit on how late abortions can be performed – after 20 weeks, a fairly typical cut-off for defining “late-term”, it is only legal to save the life of the mother, or to prevent serious permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the mother. And it’s a very small number – according to Statistics New Zealand, in 2011 only 908 abortions, or 5.7% of the total, were performed after 14 weeks’ gestation (they don’t get specific after that). In 2009, only 14 abortions were performed after 24 weeks – which is the legal cut-off in places like Great Britain.
I don’t know of any research in New Zealand on why pregnant people need later-term abortions, but there’s been a lot done in the United States. It’s pretty simple: people who are less privileged, by being young, less educated, or women of colour, are far more likely to access abortion later in pregnancy.
According to a study in 1987 of people in the US who had had late-term abortions:
- 71% did not recognize [they were] pregnant or misjudged gestation
- 48% found it hard to make arrangements for abortion
- 33% [were] afraid to tell [their] partner or parents
- 24% took time to decide to have an abortion
And I just have to include this one:
- 8% Someone pressured [them] not to have abortion
When there are obstacles in the way of pregnant people accessing abortion, it takes longer to get an abortion. And the further into pregnancy you get, the fewer, and less safe, and in many places more expensive, your options are. That’s why so many anti-choice campaigns are aimed at delaying abortion – through patronising “waiting periods”, which presume that pregnant people simply can’t be trusted to know their own wishes, or forced trans-vaginal ultrasound scans, which add the fun element of coerced medical penetration into the mix.
In New Zealand, having to see at least two certifying consultants, plus getting an appointment at a clinic which may be a day’s journey away, while needing to take time off work and find someone to take care of the kids (over half the people who have abortions have already given birth to at least one baby) creates delays.
Add a frankly bullshit system of sex and sexuality education, add the huge social stigma around abortion, add being poor and panicked and just trying to ignore the problem away … and you have people getting later-term abortions.
Late-term abortions are not a problem in of themselves – they’re a problem because they reflect the shitty situations a lot of pregnant people find themselves in, with a lack of education, a lack of support, and a system set up to make it as hard as possible for them to get quick, safe access to abortions.
We’ll always need late-term abortions, because sometimes things go wrong.
But we also need a complete overhaul of bullshit social attitudes which deny people the knowledge and ability and support to make the decisions that are right for them.
Pregnant people deserve to be trusted to make their own medical decisions. They deserve to have information on their bodies and reproductive systems. They deserve access to early, affordable, safe abortions. And when they need them – because when you need them, you really, really need them – they deserve access to late-term abortions.
More posts remembering Dr Tiller will be collated at Abortion Gang – once the Americans wake up, of course!
Like it says in the title, September 28 (TOMORROW!) will be a global day of action for abortion and reproductive rights.
And given our timezone, it’s up to Kiwi prochoicers to get things off to a ripping start.
ALRANZ has the details for events in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin, and they want to know if anything else is happening in your neck of the woods.
You should also tweet and Facebook your support using #prochoicenz and #28sept, and get yourself on the virtual mural.
Abortion: it should be safe, legal, and unless you’re the one having it, none of your fucking business.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 18 April 2013.
I’m typing this post up, just as Louisa Wall’s Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill has been made law by a 77-40-something vote. (I may also have been drinking a liiiiiiiiiittle bit of cider.)
And I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I have to ask: what’s next?
Jami-Lee Ross made comments about our abortion laws in his speech – which is fantastic, because it says he doesn’t fear the word. But he talked about it being decriminalized – and it isn’t, really. Do we dare go there?
And as Steve Grey spelled out in his recent post here, there’s a lot m0re going on for queer/LGBT/QUILTBAG folk in NZ than just the right to marry.
Marriage equality means we’ve finally recognised in law that same-sex two-person relationships are equal to heterosexual two-person relationships. But what about poly people? What about genderqueer people who don’t want to be assigned to one of two categories? And what about the continuing violence and oppression and consequent self-harm of our young queer people?
In Parliament tonight, MPs spoke about takataapui, about transgender people no longer being forced to divorce, about intersex people. There’s a lot more issues out there, and being able to call yourself a bride (because contrary to popular fundy bigot belief, a lot of queer people do use words like wife and husband and bride and groom) is just one step on the path to really accepting allthe wonderful and diverse loving relationships that New Zealanders are involved in.
Tonight, I’m drinking celebratory cider. Tomorrow, we need to take the next steps.
I highly recommend lprent’s post on the best speeches so far at The Standard, and would add Mojo Mathers’, which seriously made me cry.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 21 March 2013.
I’m returning to an old theme of mine, on this shiny new platform, not only because it’s an issue which I think is important, but one which needs to be discussed.
It needs to be discussed because it’s a matter of basic human rights.
It needs to be discussed because a lot of people – politically-savvy people who are interested in law and rights and progressiveness – really don’t have a good basic knowledge of it.
It needs to be discussed because treating it like an icky scary gross vagina-related issue is one of the reasons New Zealand, a country so bloody smug about its achievements in other areas (*cough*givingwomenthevote*cough*), continues to have condescending, paternalistic, backwards, health-endangering laws around abortion.
Abortion, as part of a whole big wibbly-wobbly thing called “reproductive rights”, is a human right because no one else has the power to commandeer your internal organs for their own purposes. It’s a health issue because, no matter what restrictions have been placed on it historically, pregnant people have always found ways to end pregnancies they do not want. Some of these ways are a lot safer than others.
It’s a public health/social welfare issue because forcing people in difficult circumstances to go through pregnancy – not, in fact, a picnic – and then raise a child they do not want, on the generous support of a Paula Bennett-run social welfare system, may just lead to bad outcomes: hungry kids. Abused kids. Unemployed parents.
And abortion in New Zealand is not on demand, no matter how often people who pretend to “love life” insist that we “practically” have abortion on demand. The hoops pregnant people have to jump through are ridiculous, even when they’re accessible (note: Southland DHB has now begun offering abortion services in Invercargill, despite the best intimidation efforts of “pro-lifers”). It’s patronising. It only delays the inevitable – because pregnant people who don’t want to be pregnant will find a way to end that pregnancy, and the longer they are forced to wait, the more dangerous it becomes for them.
Abortion is still a crime under the Crimes Act in New Zealand – with a big messed-up process to get around it, like a labyrinthine self-defence defence. New Zealanders deserve better. They deserve the right to control their own bodies and fertility, without petty obstacles. They deserve the right to make their own medical decisions in private (and yep, that also includes pregnant people who want to remain pregnant).
Now do go on and tell me I’m a soulless baby-killer while I get a cuppa. If the leftwing men would form a backup chorus for the “why aren’t you focusing on issues that matter” number later this evening that’d be great too.
Another group has entered the abortion coliseum to throw down over their right to impose their personal morality on everyone with a uterus, and their motto is
It sounds fair enough: abortion’s a complex, polarising issue, after all. So I figured hey, maybe I could help them with the hard questions about abortion.
What about a situation where scans show that the baby will have a serious disability?
This is indeed a hard question, and raises a lot of concerns about how our society treats people with disabilities, and the value or lack of value we place on the lives of people with disabilities. But at the end of the day, the pregnant person involved should be allowed to make a decision which is best for them and their family, and sometimes that’s going to be abortion, because they don’t feel capable of raising that child nor of giving that child up for adoption.
Without easy access to medical abortion, won’t some women want to seek the same result by other methods?
Yes. And a lot of them will die. Far more than will die due to abortion, which has a zero fatality rate in New Zealand and is many, many times less likely to kill you than pregnancy.
How about situations where a [person's] health might be threatened by pregnancy?
They get to choose whether to continue the pregnancy.
What if a woman has no stable income and can’t drop out of uni or work to raise a child – isn’t pregnancy unfair for child and mother?
That’s a decision the pregnant person has to make.
Should a child be brought into the world if there is an abusive situation in her home?
That’s a decision the pregnant person has to make.
What about a situation where pregnancy results from sexual assault – isn’t abortion the best solution?
That’s a decision the pregnant person has to make.
Gosh. I guess most of those questions weren’t so hard after all.
The real point is this: Pro Life New Zealand want to use over-simplified, judgemental arguments to shame pregnant people into not having abortions. Note the question about sexual assault, and “isn’t abortion the best solution” – as though prochoice activists are out there insisting that every pregnancy resulting from assault be aborted. Note the first question is about disability – as though these religious extremists give a fuck about challenging society’s ableism once you’re out of the womb.
We’re PRO. CHOICE. If a person simply cannot cope with their pregnancy, we support their choice to have an abortion, safely and legally. If a person feels they can cope with their pregnancy, we support their choice to continue the pregnancy and their right to be supported by society, especially if they or their child have special medical needs or if they’re raising a child alone.
Antichoicers do not support your choice, unless it is the choice they agree with.
The whippersnappers* of Young Labour have done a very good job canvassing Cunliffe, Jones and Robertson’s feelings on a number of topics … so I’m just shamelessly springboarding off their hard work to provide my own take (and also transcribe the answers for those who can’t read the images).
Of course, they were always going to start with the dread ManBan.
Robertson: I am totally committed to ensuring the Labour caucus is 50/50 men and women.
Nice and straightforward, doesn’t actually address the question.
Jones: I don’t support a quota system, I will reward merit and take innovative steps to attract quality candidates regardless of gender, ethnicity or creed.
Surprise surprise, Shane Jones believes in a meritocracy and doesn’t think he should take this golden opportunity to address the fact that people think he’s a fucking misogynist troll.
Cunliffe: I’d like to see Parliament made up of 50% women, but it’s not something we can legislate for. The place for deciding on quotas is in political parties. I am committed to 50% of Labour’s caucus being women no later than 2017 and earlier if practicable. That means a real effort to change our culture.
Well, you can actually legislate for that kind of thing, David … but points for actually addressing the question and stating clearly that this is something requiring a culture change.
Cunliffe: I am comfortable with personal possession of marijuana being a minor infringement. I do not believe that it makes sense to waste significant police resources on this issue. Did I ever smoke marijuana? I was a student in the early 80s but I swear I did not inhale while writing poetry.
A nice balanced answer, though not one that’s going to convert any ALCP members. And I like Cunliffe’s ability to make a joke of himself, which neatly takes the sting out of bullshit hacks’ jabs at him.
Jones: I am not a smoker and will not put any priority on legalising marijuana.
Robertson: Like any drug we need tight regulation, but I favour a partial decriminalisation approach. I have to say though that this issue is not a major priority for me. As for inhaling, yes, not for many years, and I did not particularly enjoy it.
Another balanced answer, but it’s always super-telling when a politician uses the phrase “I have to say though”. It’s an ass-covering manoeuvre, a sop to the people who will freak out over the statement preceding it.
*QoT rolls up her sleeves and readies the chairleg of truth*
Robertson: All women should have the right to control and determine their own reproductive health. That is an absolute non negotiable. In my mind, our current abortion laws fall outside this principle and need to be reformed.
… well that was unexpected. It wasn’t Holly Walker levels of awesome, but given the last Labour leader to be asked the question decided to put his male privilege on full display by declaring he “hadn’t given it much thought”, I’m impressed, Grant.
Jones: Abortion, for me will always be a matter for an MP’s conscience.
Surprise surprise, Shane Jones hides behind the conscience issue – but won’t actually let us know what his conscience (I assume here that he has one) would tell him to do. And that’s a big fucking deal for a party leader.
Cunliffe: I want to see a woman’s right to choose protected. The current law hasn’t been reviewed for many years and I think that is now urgent. The Law Commission would be best placed to undertake this review as it is a conscience issue which splits across parties.
David does well here, but … yeah, a definite second place. Saying the law “hasn’t been reviewed for many years” is a massive understatement which is barely balanced by “that is now urgent”. And I just hate the conscience issue thing. Sure, abortion is widely seen as a “moral” issue, but we don’t have fucking Parliamentary conscience votes on whether Viagra can be advertised on television during the cricket, and Viagra isn’t a necessary medical procedure the lack of which might kill people.
Of course, Robertson and Cunliffe both make abortion purely a woman’s issue. They’re neither of them strident feminists, and if Grant thought about it he probably didn’t want to hand the religious extremists another “look at the gay man who is gay!!!!” attack of opportunity.
What I’m most torn on is Jones’ answers. Because I think he’s below pondscum, I read his brief, politic responses as either the kind you give when you don’t really respect the person asking your questions, or the kind you give when you lack the political instinct to figure out how to turn it best to your advantage. Cunliffe and Robertson have both made efforts to either cement their progressiveness or reinforce their moderateness and they’re definitely aiming at the Young Labour audience. Jones doesn’t seem to give a fuck.
On the other hand, there’s probably plenty of people out there who will see that as a good thing: straight-talking, no waffle. No real principles either, but that probably doesn’t matter to Jones supporters.
*Oh god I feel old.