This article is a guest post by Gordon Copeland and was published as an Op Ed piece in the Dominion Post on 22nd May 2017
Back in the 1970’s, following the opening of an abortion clinic in Auckland in defiance of its illegality; abortion became a political and a divisive issue.
At the same time, a new organisation know as Sisters Overseas Service, assisted women seeking abortions with passage to Australia, where abortion had become legal in Victoria and NSW. This affected me directly when a young woman on my staff took leave to go to Sydney for an abortion. She was terrified that her father would kill her if he discovered that she was pregnant outside of wedlock. She was inconsolable and my heart went out to her.
In late 1977 the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act was passed by Parliament in an acrimonious conscience vote.
Like everyone else I had to decide which side of the fence I was on. After much thought and prayer I came to the firm conviction that the ending of an innocent life by abortion is wrong. That puts me in the pro-life camp.
However if you were to ask me what I think about a woman who has decided to abort her baby, I would tell you that I have compassion for her. I wonder whether anyone cares for her or whether she is doing this because she feels she has no other option. Where is the father? Although the pregnancy results from the action of the two, not infrequently, it all becomes her fault and she is told to “get rid of it”. It is sometimes said that “she went and got herself pregnant”. Talk about sexist!
Against that background it troubles me deeply when I hear that a young women’s baby has been aborted without her being given detailed information about the procedure, its consequences and the alternatives. That needs to change.
Some 28 years ago in 1988, the Cartwright Inquiry introduced the requirement that the Informed Consent of a patient must be freely obtained prior to any and all surgery, but abortion is the one exception since it is not included in the 1977 Act, because at that time no one had heard of it! However it is inexcusable that in the 28 years since the Cartwright Inquiry Parliament has never bothered to update the Act to include informed consent. That could so easily have done so by a simple amendment.
Such amendments have been made to abortion laws in Germany, France, Belgium, Uruguay and no less than 38 States in the USA. We should follow suit.
A yet more serious issue is coercion. There are now thousands of post-abortion women in New Zealand many of whom seek counselling. I am advised by the women who provide that counselling, that many of those women were coerced into aborting their babies. The stories are varied. The pressure to abort can come from the father of the baby (including husbands), family members, and peers or even work mates.
This also needs to come to an end as has happened in the jurisdictions mentioned above, where the woman’s own doctor is now required to verify that she has made the decision to abort of her own free will.