Summary: Correct language is important to convey the true intent of the intended action. Throughout the document the word “termination” is used. This term is incorrect as it is not used in the abortion laws, the term used in legislation is abortion. The term “termination” or “termination of pregnancy” is used to disguise the reality that it is not the pregnancy that is terminated but the life of a unique human being. It is disappointing that there is no reference to the long title of the CS & A Act, which states that “…abortions may be authorised after having full regard to the rights of the unborn child.”It is also disappointing that the objective of the draft document appears to be to expedite the quick and efficient killing of unwanted children. In conclusion our Society requests that you give consideration to this submission and advise us of your response.
Re: Best Practice Termination of Pregnancy Draft Document
Our Society supports the Committee in producing a resource for general practitioners to assist them in dealing with women with a crisis pregnancy. We wish to take this opportunity of making some observations on the draft document.
· On page 2 under Key Concepts it states that “it is not the role of GPs to discuss their own personal views about termination. If a GP is not able to refer personally, then arrangements must be made for the woman to be seen as soon as possible by another doctor in the area,” Our Society is opposed to this statement which is intended to silence medical practitioners from acting according to their conscience and fulfilling their duty of care to their patients.
· Medical practice requires that doctors are free to exercise an informed conscience and to act in accordance with the highest principles of the profession which is based on the first principle, “to do no harm.”
· We are all called to defend life. Medical practitioners have a duty of care to their patients. When a doctor is being consulted by a woman who is with child, the doctor is dealing with two patients. He has a duty of care for the unborn child, who is the weakest and most defenceless member of the human family. Is it reprehensible for a doctor to believe and say that it is a violation of the human rights of his patient; an unborn child to kill it and that having an abortion could result in causing her to experience a lifetime of regret, anguish and serious mental ill health?
· In 1948 the General Assembly of the World Medical Association in Geneva passed a Declaration on the responsibilities of medical practitioners, it included, “The health and life of my patient will be my first consideration.” It also stated, “I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of its conception, even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity.” The Geneva Declaration was made in response to the crimes against humanity that were perpetrated by Nazi Germany.
On page 3, titled “Termination Law in New Zealand” it states that “The Contraception Sterilisation and Termination Act 1977 and the Crimes Act 1961 [amendments 1977 & 1978] are the basis for the law governing termination in New Zealand.” This statement is incorrect.
· The correct title of the former Act is the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977. [CS &A Act]This error is repeated in the second paragraph on the same page. The laws governing abortion in the Crimes Act 1961 are not confined to s 187 A, but include the sections 182 to 186.
· To have a proper understanding of s 187A it is important to acknowledge that abortions in New Zealand are unlawful in terms of s 182 and that on conviction of the unlawful killing of an unborn child a person may be imprisoned for a term not exceeding 14 years. Section 187A does not legalize abortion it merely provides a defence from prosecution if the strict requirements of the section are complied with.
On the same page the statement is made,”Grounds for performing the termination [s.187A Crimes Act 1961 [as amended].” There is no reference to the “termination of pregnancy” in this section of the Crimes Act. The section states clearly that it must be read in conjunction with s 183 and s 186. Both of those sections deal with the question of abortion not “termination of pregnancy.” In our view, the statement “Grounds for the termination…” is incorrect and should read “Grounds for Abortion…”
On page 3, in the last paragraph it states that, “it is not the role of the general practitioner to determine whether there are legal grounds for termination.” It is acknowledged that it is the statutory duty of certifying consultants to authorise or decline a request from a woman for an abortion. This section in the draft document fails to make it clear that the woman’s own doctor has a responsibility to make an assessment as to whether the woman has grounds under s 187A of the CS &A Act for an abortion. The CS&A Act, s 32  states, “Every registered medical practitioner [in this section referred to as the woman’s own doctor] who is consulted by or in respect of a female who wishes to have an abortion shall, if requested to do so by or on behalf of that female, arrange for the case to be considered and dealt with in accordance with the succeeding provisions of this section and of section 33 of this Act.”
· The duty of the woman’s own doctor is that if the doctor considers the woman has legal grounds for an abortion, to arrange for her to be referred to a certifying consultant Conversely, if the woman’s own doctor considers that the woman does not have legal grounds for an abortion the doctor has no legal responsibility to refer the woman to a certifying consultant.
· The draft document should be amended to advise doctors that abortion in New Zealand is unlawful and that they are not obliged to refer a woman to a certifying consultant if they believe that she does not have legal grounds for an abortion.
On page 7, it states “Psychological sequelae Some studies suggest higher rates of self-harm and mental illness among women who have had a termination but these findings do not imply a casual association and may reflect continuation of pre existing conditions”. This statement is incorrect and would encourage general practitioners to believe that the killing of an unborn child would have no detrimental effects on the future mental health of the mother. It is widely accepted that the loss of a child in pregnancy for any reason is a traumatic experience for any woman and can be the cause of future mental ill health. This is especially so for a mother who chooses to have her unborn child killed.
You are aware of the study produced by the Canterbury Health and Development Study, at the Christchurch School of Medicine in 2005.The research was led by Professor David Fergusson, Ph.D. who is a psychologist and epidemiologist; He said that his research team had followed the progress of 1265 children born in Christchurch in the mid 1970s from infancy to adulthood. Nearly 500 women became pregnant by the age of 25 and 90 had an abortion. The study found that 42 per cent of those women who had an abortion had also suffered major depression during the previous four years. Those who had an abortion were also twice as likely to drink alcohol to dangerous levels compared with those who had a live birth and three times as likely to be dependent on illicit drugs. Those who had an abortion also suffered elevated rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal behaviours. Professor Fergusson said that he was “pro choice” and advised that his study was careful to discount women who had a previous history of mental illness. He said that every woman considering an abortion should be provided with the results of this important study.
· It is a great disservice to women and their unborn children that the results of this comprehensive and professional study should be withheld from them. There are numerous other scientific studies that have been conducted around the world which indicate that many women suffer grief, sorrow and mental ill health as the result of having an abortion. Our Society requests that your Committee have this section changed to include the findings of the study of Professor Fergusson.
Correct language is important to convey the true intent of the intended action. Throughout the document the word “termination” is used. This term is incorrect as it is not used in the abortion laws, the term used in legislation is abortion. The term “termination” or “termination of pregnancy” is used to disguise the reality that it is not the pregnancy that is terminated but the life of a unique human being. It is disappointing that there is no reference to the long title of the CS & A Act, which states that “…abortions may be authorised after having full regard to the rights of the unborn child.”It is also disappointing that the objective of the draft document appears to be to expedite the quick and efficient killing of unwanted children. In conclusion our Society requests that you give consideration to this submission and advise us of your response.