Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman,
Minister of Health,
Dear Dr Coleman
Domestic Violence and Abortion Official Information Act Request
In 2010 Right to Life supported the call of the Abortion Supervisory Committee [ASC] for research in New Zealand on the relationship of domestic violence and abortion. The Committee’s call was made in its annual report to Parliament for 2009.
I wish to request under the Official Information Act a copy of your response to the Committee’s request made in its report to Parliament in 2009 for more research into the relationship between abortion and domestic violence?
The Committee reported that information provided by the Epsom Day Unit revealed that one third of women seeking an abortion at the Unit are subject to domestic violence. Right to Life believes that the incidence of domestic violence is actually much higher as it is believed that many women are too afraid and ashamed to admit that they are victims of domestic violence.
Epsom Day Unit is the busiest Abortion Clinic in New Zealand, in 2009 it reported the performance of 5,380 abortions. It is believed that the experience of domestic violence at Epsom Day Clinic reflects the domestic violence that is being observed in all the nation’s Abortion Clinics and hospitals. We are aware that a similar study was conducted by the Waikato District Health Board in 2005
Studies done in the United States reveal that 64 per cent of women having an abortion are being coerced by others, often associated with violence inflicted on the woman who wants her baby to live. Homicide is the leading cause of death in the United States of women who are pregnant.
Right to life is opposed to all violence against women. Abortion is the ultimate in violence against women and their unborn. It is intolerable that women should have violence inflicted on them, it is even more intolerable that they should have violence inflicted on them for refusing to have an abortion. The issue of domestic violence against women seeking an abortion raises several important questions:-
The Committee advised Right to Life in October 2010 that a distance taught course would become available to pregnancy counsellors which would include addressing issues of domestic violence. The Committee had written to District Health Boards advising them of this and encouraging them to recommend the course to key staff. This course is not available as it was the Committee’s intention to conduct this course from the Canterbury University campus. As a result of the Canterbury earthquakes of 2011 which caused significant disruption the project has been terminated.
In the event that women present for an abortion and reveal that their pregnancy is the cause of domestic violence against them and that they are being coerced into seeking an abortion against their wishes I believe that informed consent is not possible. As 98 per cent of requests for abortion are granted, are these women being granted an abortion?
Are you aware of similar studies to that conducted by the Epsom Day abortion clinic and the Waikato District Health Board being conducted by other abortion providers?
Would you support a national study into the relationship of domestic violence and abortion?
Justice and Electoral Select Committee,
2010/11 financial review of the Abortion Supervisory Committee
It is noted that in the 2000/2001 financial review of the Abortion Supervisory Committee your Committee in its report to Parliament stated that the review was unproductive. Concern was expressed that during the examination of the Committee they refused to take any ownership of its report for 2001.
In your Committee’s report on its financial review of the ASC for 2010/11 it stated that the Committee pointed out that the ASC acknowledged in its written submission that Crown Law advice does not prohibit it from changing its practices, nor does the law prevent it from doing more than meeting prescribed minimum standards.
Right to Life has been monitoring the performance of the ASC since 1978 and has made many submissions in the interest of women’s health. I wish to bring several of our concerns to your attention.
Right to Life believes that women considering an abortion should be given a document listing the potential complications both short term and long term that might arise from having an abortion.
On 25 November 2016 Right to Life wrote to the ASC and asked under the Official Information Act for a list of the complications that is provided to women by certifying consultants. The ASC responded on 19 December 2016 that there is no standardised list and that it was their responsibility to comply with Standard 54 of the “Standards of Care for Women Requesting Induced Abortion in New Zealand.”We were advised doctors have a statutory obligation to abide by the Code of Health and Disability Rights, which sets out the legal responsibilities around informed consent and patient rights. Individual clinicians and District Health Boards have their own set of policies and protocols in place to adhere to their obligations under the code.
Right to Life believes that the Committee has a duty to ensure that the informed consent process is standard throughout New Zealand with women being given a document with a standard list of potential complications. It is mentioned that the list of complications listed in the Standards of Care document is in the opinion of Right to Life, incomplete.
On 19 November 2014 Right to Life wrote to the Committee under the Official Information Act and asked the following questions;
- How many cases of alleged unlawful connection, including incest, have been reported by certifying consultants to your Committee in the years 2,000to 2013.
- The Committee’s report for 2013 discloses that there were 5 abortions authorised on the grounds of Criminal offence and danger to mental health. Were these alleged crimes reported to the Police and was the Committee notified of the outcome of these cases?
- How many women seeking an abortion claimed that the pregnancy was the result of rape in the years 2,000 to 2013?
The Committee responded on 23 January 2015 to advise that the number of abortions performed where consideration was given to the existence of reasonable grounds for believing that the pregnancy was the result of sexual violation was listed in Table 2. The remainder of our request was declined on the grounds that the Committee did not have the information and that there were no grounds for believing that the information was held by another department.
The Committee has a duty to comply with the Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion Act, section 14 [g] to obtain, monitor, analyse, collate and disseminate information relating to the performance of abortions in New Zealand. Right to Life believes that the Committee has a duty to seek reports on alleged incest, rape, and statutory rape to ensure that those guilty of a serious crime are brought to justice. We also believe that there is a danger that incest may not be brought to the attention of the Police with the victim being sent back to the perpetrator for the offending to continue. The Committee believes that it is not their business and it is solely the business of doctors and certifying consultants.