In November 2008 Right to Life made a submission to the Minister of Health the Hon Tony Ryall, requesting that consideration be given to instructing District Health Boards in New Zealand that provide abortions to require that women considering an abortion be offered the opportunity to view an ultrasound scan of their baby.
It is the normal procedure in New Zealand that women considering an abortion undergo an ultrasound scan prior to signing a consent form for an abortion. Our Society has recently written to the 13 District Health Boards in New Zealand that provide abortions, seeking information on the protocol followed with ultrasound scans taken for women considering an abortion. The following District Health Boards [DHB’s], Otago, Hawkes Bay and Taranaki advised that women having an ultrasound scan were offered the opportunity to view the scan. But…
The following DHB’s Auckland, Waikato,Wairarapa and Canterbury advised that women were not offered the opportunity to view their ultrasound unless they specifically requested it. The Waikato DHB stated that to offer a woman an opportunity to view her scan would be an infringement of a patient’s rights under the Code. To ask is a decision that only a woman can make.
Our Society believes that this is a very important issue. It should be the right of every woman to choose to see or not to see an ultrasound of her baby. We believe that such a service would assist in meeting the legal requirements of the Code of Health Rights to be fully informed and to give an informed consent. In support of our submission we stated that we believed that the right of a woman to view her scan can only be fulfilled if it is offered and she is given the opportunity to exercise her right.
It is known from studies conducted in the United States that inviting women to view a scan results in many women deciding against abortion and choosing life for their baby. We are all desirous of reducing our tragically high abortion statistics. This is a proven procedure for achieving this objective. It is a protocol that could be implemented with no cost to the government.
To ensure that women are offered the opportunity of viewing a scan we suggested that the consent form for abortions have a statement confirming that she has been offered the opportunity of viewing her scan. It was mentioned that we recognized the right of women to refuse to look at her scan of her baby.
It was mentioned that according to anecdotal evidence many women who have had an abortion claim that they had no information about the development of their unborn children.
We believe that there should be a standard protocol in place with DHB’s providing abortion, at present there is not a standard procedure, which is a breach of the rights of women. We look forward to the Minister’s response.
Our Society has been advised that there are seven States in the United States that have passed legislation requiring abortion providers to offer an ultrasound scan to women considering an abortion. Those States are Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin. A further ten States have similar legislation being considered by their legislatures.
It is the experience of pregnancy counselling centres in the United States that now have ultrasound facilities, that women considering an abortion when given the opportunity of seeing an ultrasound scan of their unborn child decide against abortion and choose to bring their baby to birth. The number of women who change their mind after seeing an ultrasound according to these centres varies between 62 and 95 per cent.
In conclusion we believe that implementing our recommendation will save the lives of many unborn children and save many women from a lifetime of sadness, regret, and spiritual, physical and psychological damage. In support of our submission we enclosed a letter from Dr Norman MacLean, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, previously in charge of Obstetrics at the Kew Hospital