Right to Life welcomes the judgment of Justice Miller. This is an historic judgment and the most important development in the abortion laws in New Zealand during the previous 30 years. The implementation of this judgment by the Abortion Supervisory Committee should result in a substantial reduction in the number of abortions performed in New Zealand and bring the law back into line with the intentions of the Royal Commission and Parliament. The judgment should herald in a new era of care and protection of women and their unborn children.
The judgment acknowledges that it was the intention of Parliament in 1977 in passing the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act [CS & A act] to provide effective legal protection for the human rights of unborn children; however no rights were spelt out in the Act or in other legislation. This intention to provide effective legal protection is enshrined in the long title of the Act which states …”.that abortions may be authorised only after full regard is given to the rights of unborn children.” Rather the judge held that the Act creates a “moral claim” by the unborn child “on the conscience of the community and not merely that of the mother through the substantive criteria and procedures prescribed by the Act.
The judge has acknowledged that we now have in New Zealand an abortion rate comparable to those of Canada and the United States where women have a constitutional right to an abortion. Justice Miller states that “there is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorised by certifying consultants. Indeed the Committee itself has stated that the law is being used more liberally than Parliament intended.”
Justice Miller stated that; “In my opinion, the statistics and the Committee’s comments over the years since the Court of Appeal made that observation do give rise to powerful misgivings about the lawfulness of many abortions. They tend to confirm Dr Forster’s view that New Zealand essentially has abortion on request.
The judge has said that “the Abortion Supervisory Committee has misinterpreted its functions and powers under the abortion law reasoning incorrectly that Wall v Livingston precludes the Committee from reviewing or scrutinising decisions of certifying consultants. The Committee does in fact have the power to require certifying consultants to keep records and report on cases they have considered.”
Abortion is violence against women and their unborn children. Unborn children are the weakest and most defenceless members of the human family; their human rights deserve the full protection of the law.
Right to Life is confident that the Committee will fulfil its statutory duty by holding consultants accountable for the lawfulness of the abortions that they authorise, stopping abortion on demand and questioning consultants on the use of mental health grounds for the authorising of 98% of abortions
The first duty of the state is to protect the human rights of all of its citizens from conception to natural death. We are therefore confident that the government and Parliament will support the Committee in fulfilling its statutory duties in upholding the rule of law.