Victory for Family Planning, but we still need abortion law reform

Family Planning have won again:

Family Planning has maintained its licence to operate an early medical abortion service at its Tauranga clinic.

…However, Ms Edmond commented on how lucky Family Planning was. The decision could easily have gone the other way and women may not have continued to have the choice of having an early medical abortion in their home town. What this latest legal challenge highlights is the need for abortion law reform.

“As a provider of abortion services, Family Planning is keenly aware of the fragility of the current law. We know that groups, like Right to Life, will continue to try to poke holes in our failing and antiquated laws. What happens if next time they are successful?” says Ms Edmond.

The issue is this: Family Planning in Tauranga offers early medical abortion, where the pregnant person takes two pills to induce a miscarriage. It’s safer and far less invasive that a surgical abortion.

But when our abortion law was passed in the 70s, medical abortion didn’t exist. So when regulating the facilities where abortions are done, it was assumed that surgery is involved. Right to Life’s argument was that the law should thus be interpreted so that only clinics with surgical facilities can perform abortions – even when the abortion itself involves no surgery.

They literally want medical practice in 2015 to be dictated by what politicians in 1977 assumed was the way to do things.

If there’s clearer evidence that the anti-abortion lobby are solely motivated by controlling pregnant people’s bodies, I don’t know what it is. They aren’t interested in safety and best medical practice – early medical abortion is safer and does reflect best medical practice. They just want to create delay. Force pregnant people to travel further to access medical care. Tell them to jump through bureaucratic hoops to undergo a safe medical procedure. Make them wait until there aren’t any choices left.

This is why we need abortion law reform. I can’t think of another issue which is literally stuck in the 70s, with a law that’s almost totally irrelevant in the context of 2015, yet constantly met with cries of “Ew, no, don’t bring that up!”

There is nothing radical about saying “this law was passed in 1977, and it didn’t even reflect best practice then. It creates pointless red tape and costs time and taxpayer dollars. Medical science has advanced. Let’s update our law so it’s practical, cost-effective, and fair.”

mean girls duh

The opposition is an extremist, powerless minority. They couldn’t stop prostitution law reform, they couldn’t stop civil unions, they couldn’t stop the repeal of section 59, they couldn’t stop marriage equality. Their greatest recent victory was a temporary injunction against a book which helped it score an international publishing deal.

But politicians are afraid to take a stand. Even though there are many people who would actively campaign for abortion law reform. Right to Life always likes to sneer about the size of organisations like ALRANZ, but there’s also the Greens, whose policy is to decriminalise abortion, and Young Labour who have consistently campaigned for and spoken out on abortion issues.

We do a pretty good rally, too.

Rally for abortion rights at Parliament

A post shared by @ msstephaniecatherine on

This is a winnable argument. Most people are shocked to learn abortion is still in the Crimes Act. They don’t realise some DHBs don’t offer abortion services, or that people still fly to Australia for terminations. We can get that message out there – but the people with the big public platforms to do it need to stop flinching and saying “oh no, we can’t mention the A-word!” first.

We’re leaving the field open for the extremists, to take vexatious cases against Family Planning, to drum up baseless anxiety about parental notifications, to keep telling us that pregnant people can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies. And that’s not okay.

And now, an unintentionally pro-choice ditty from Twisted Sister.

What do you reckon?

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