The Ministry of Justice has refused a request under the Official Information Act to provide the names and qualifications of persons appointed by the Abortion Supervisory Committee to a new advisory committee. Right to Life is disappointed that its request for this information has been refused. It represents a serious threat to our civil liberties. The public have a right in a free society to know who are appointed to government bodies and to know what their qualifications are. The secret members of this committee are appointed by the Abortion Supervisory Committee under the authority of the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act. Members are paid for their services from the public purse.
The Prime Minister the Right Honourable Helen Clark consistently maintains that government should be open and transparent. It is an outrage that her government is now denying the people of New Zealand the right to know who these secret members are and what there qualifications are.
The Standards Committee is very important; its duty is to develop standards for the provision of abortion services in New Zealand. These standards could influence the lawfulness of abortions and affect the health and welfare of vulnerable women and the lives of their unborn children. The Abortion Supervisory Committee is deliberately ignoring a High Court judgment that put the Committee on notice for failing to fulfil its statutory duties. Justice Miller in the High Court in his judgment on 9 June stated 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.” Is the Committee now using secrecy to appoint doctors to this important Standards Committee who are responsible for unlawful abortion on demand?
It is imperative that the persons appointed to this Standards Committee are committed to implementing the judgment of Justice Miller by stopping the current unlawful abortion on demand, ensuring that abortions are lawful and that certifying consultants are not using mental health grounds to provide abortion on demand. It is important that persons appointed are committed to protecting the health and welfare of women and ensuring that the right to life of unborn children receives the full protection of the law. Right to Life calls upon the Minister of Justice to release to the public the names of the persons appointed to the abortion Standards Committee.