Hon Nanaia Mahuta,
Minister of Maori Development,
I believe that the government’s proposal to decriminalise abortion would violate Article three of the Treaty of Waitangi. When the treaty was signed in 1840, the Crown gave an assurance that Maori would have the Queen’s protection. I believe that that protection was to include protection of the right to life of Maori from conception to natural death.
The Crimes Act section 182. “Killing Unborn Child” provides protection for the life of Maori in the womb. It is a serious crime to kill an unborn child and on conviction a person may be imprisoned for a term up to 14 years. Section 183. “Procuring abortion by any means” prohibits unlawful abortion, this is also a serious crime and every one on conviction, is liable tto imprisonment for a term not exceeding 14 years. This legal protection for the lives of unborn children has been in the Crimes Act since 1856.
It is the government’s intention to make it no longer a crime to kill an unborn child in an abortion and to remove the child from the protection of the Crimes Act and to make the killing of an unwanted child a matter of “reproductive choice for women”. These children will effectively lose the protection of the Crown. The children who are wanted will retain the protection of the Crimes Act and the protection of the Crown.
It is my contention that when the treaty was signed in 1840, the Crown was giving an assurance that it was giving protection for the lives of Maori during their first nine months of life which is currently provided in sections 182 and 183.
I believe that it is important to recall that the current abortion laws were recommended by the Royal Commission on Contraception Sterilisation and Abortion in its report to Parliament in 1977. This respected Commission was appointed by the distinguished Right Hon Bill Rowling, the leader of the third Labour government.
The Commission in its report to Parliament stated, with regard to the status of the unborn child; “The unborn child as one of the weakest, the most vulnerable and most defenceless forms of humanity, should receive protection. From a biological point of view there is no argument as to when life begins. Evidence was given to us by eminent scientists from all over the world, none of them suggested that human life begins at any other time than at conception”.
They went on to say, “From implantation to birth, changes which take place in the unborn child are of a developmental nature only. There are no changes of a qualitative nature. The three events suggested as being of significance, namely quickening, viability and brain development are no more than stages in that development and are not indicative of any qualitative changes in the developing fetus which would make it non-human at one point of time and human at another.”
In rejecting the argument that some degree of development should be reached before the unborn child be accorded status the Commission said, “If some stage of physical or mental development has to be accepted as indicating whether or not human life is in being, so a stage may be reached at the other end of life where a person who has become senile or has lost consciousness may be disposed of.”
I believe that if we as a society deny the humanity of the unborn, then logically we will one day deny the humanity of those who are suffering dementia and Alzheimer’s. The denial of the humanity and right to life of the unborn is a threat to the right to life of every citizen.
The decriminalisation of abortion would be a violation of the human rights of Maori unborn and an attack on the dignity of Maori mothers, it would be a statement from the state that we have no interest in protecting the life of your child or protecting you from the violence of abortion, the child is your property and it is your choice whether the child lives or is killed. If we followed the Victorian model abortion for any reason is available up to 24 weeks if a doctor agrees. Abortion from 25 weeks to birth is available for any reason if two doctors believe that an abortion is desirable. Victoria effectively has abortion on demand up to birth.
The provisions of the Treaty require that the Crown and its agents respect the principles of the Treaty, these principles, as enunciated by the Royal Commission on Social Policy in 1988, are partnership, protection and participation. The Treaty has been promoted as a suitable framework within which to consider social and economic development which includes health.
I would earnestly request that in the interest of Maori and indeed the whole community, that you oppose the proposal of the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, to decriminalise abortion. I would be grateful if you would advise me if you believe the proposal to decriminalise abortion would be a violation of the treaty of Waitangi.
The abortion rate for Maori is disturbing. In 2016 there were 12,823 abortions reported in New Zealand, 2,896 of these abortions were on Maori women. I believe that if abortion is decriminalised it will result in more pressure and coercion imposed on Maori women to terminate the life of their child by the fathers of the child who threaten to abandon the mother if she does not have an abortion.
I understand that Ministers of the Crown may request the Waitangi Tribunal to provide an opinion on whether proposed legislation would breach the Treaty. I would therefore request that you give serious consideration to referring my submission to the Tribunal for a learned decision on this most important issue of legal protection for the right to life of Maori unborn, the weakest and most defenceless members of the Maori family.
Right to Life