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- News & Events
We have had some questions about TOP’s position on New Zealand’s abortion reform. In particular, many are concerned about “full-term abortions”.
TOP is an evidence-based party, focused on what works. On this issue, the evidence from around the world is clear that if we want to reduce unplanned or unwanted pregnancies, the best way to reduce this happening is to improve access to contraception. When contraception is made more available - abortions decrease. To reduce abortions, New Zealand should make contraception completely free for New Zealanders. That means free doctor’s visits to get a contraception prescription, and fee-free prescriptions too. There are plenty of more creative options to make contraception free, and reduce the need for many abortions.
The current debate in New Zealand isn’t about whether abortions should be allowed, but more how they are regulated. Since 2017, TOP has endorsed Citizens’ Assemblies as the best way for our democracy to tackle polarising and complex issues such as abortions, where conscience and values interplay with evidence from science, economics or data.
For these kinds of issues, a “Yes” or “No” referendum just doesn’t cut it. Information and discussion are needed to sift through the issue and weigh up the values and conscience positions at play. Meanwhile, conscience votes in Parliament are often politicised, rather than being carefully debated.
A Citizens’ Assembly would give us a process to reach agreement on the finer details as to how to implement abortion reform in New Zealand, to align with modern Kiwis in the 21st century.
Citizens’ Assemblies are a process where a jury of our peers is given the time, resources, information and experts to wade through the information - and misinformation - that might be, and identify the best policy options for our abortion law.
That might sound a bit utopian, but Ireland did exactly this to great success. France is using a Citizens’ Assembly to determine which of the myriad climate change policy options France should choose to pursue. Our own Aotearoa Climate Emergency Inc. is formed to campaign for this option for New Zealanders.
Full term abortions
One particularly tricky issue that is coming up is full-term abortions.
One side says the new legislation allows “full-term abortions”, and this is unacceptable. The other side says “full-term abortions” aren’t a true phenomenon, and that isn’t how the law is written. For simplicity’s sake, let’s use the words “late-stage abortion” to talk about when a pregnancy towards the final weeks of a usually 40-week process is aborted.
As we discussed above, the regulations around abortion are based partly on medical evidence and partly on value judgments. However, some of the claims being made about late-stage abortions are misleading. We have seen some statements about late-stage abortions as being “painkillers withheld”, “dismemberment”, or “abortion warrant”. There is no scientific or medical evidence to support any such claims.
What we do know is that the late-stage abortions that have occurred in New Zealand are those where there are severe complications in the pregnancy. The life of the mother and/or unborn child were at risk (remembering as well that carrying a pregnancy to full term does put mother’s and baby’s life at risk to a degree even if both are healthy and there are no complications throughout). Those who have faced later abortions were facing severe medical conditions and - if they have any choice at all, it’s generally about whether to euthanise a foetus before it’s born or deliver it and - if it survives labour - watch it die.
There are extremely few abortions after 20 weeks in New Zealand, and of those, half are before 23 weeks. The experts say abortions after 20 weeks are wanted pregnancies or concealed pregnancies from the result of trauma.
Given the grief and pain that people facing crisis pregnancies face, do we want to complicate that with making the parents jump through hoops regarding abortion? This issue needs to be considered as part of any regulation around abortion.
Remember that in TOP’s view a Citizens’ Assembly should work through the appropriate regulation of abortion. Ordinary citizens would have the chance to hear from experts and people with real life experiences and make up their own minds.
In all of this, we need to give voice to those who have lost or terminated a pregnancy - one in four of us have gone through this (ALRANZ). There is no-one who knows what ending a pregnancy before term is really like - no matter what the social media memes say - better than those who have experienced it.
This election you can vote for Citizens’ Assemblies for our generation’s complex social challenges by voting for TOP. But until then, to step out of our current abortion debate, you can do your own research and cut through the misinformation. Citizens’ Assemblies will allow us to have better discussions about abortion because we face many more values-and conscience-challenges in our future New Zealand.
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