Gosnell case used by ALRANZ to justify decriminalisation of abortion in New Zealand

Unsurprisingly, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand (ALRANZ) has echoed the thoughts of Ilsye Hogue, President of NARAL, using the Gosnell case to justify the need for decriminalization of abortion in New Zealand.

A recent blog post authored by the organisation told readers that the Gosnell case is an “important reminder that restrictive abortion laws open the door for people to prey on desperate women and lead to medical negligence.”

The comment reflects the opinion of Ilyse Hogue who is reported by the Huffington Post to have said

This is exactly what happens when you place undue restrictions and you try to shame women to keep them from exercising their constitutional right to safe and legal abortions… You make them victims to people like Gosnell, because in their desperation they’ll turn anywhere. You want to drive people like Gosnell out of business? Then you actually support medical facilities and the right of women to safe and legal abortion.

Recently, the call for decriminalisation of abortion in New Zealand has gained momentum, with ALRANZ, Family Planning and Young Labour all making noises. Young Labour (the youth arm of New Zealand’s liberal political party) has declared their plan to make decriminalisation of abortion a 2014 election issue.

Abortion in New Zealand is currently regulated in law by two Acts of Parliament, the Crimes Act, 1961 and the Abortion, Sterilisation and Abortion Act, 1977. Abortion is legal up to 20 weeks on the grounds of saving the life of the mother, danger to mental health, disability, and incest. Rape can be taken into account, although is not a ground for abortion in itself. Women must see two certifying consultants prior to the procedure. Abortions can also be done post 20 weeks to save the life of the mother.

In practice New Zealand has abortion on demand, with 97.6% of abortions in 2011 done under the grounds of “danger to mental health”. Late term abortions do occur, especially when a foetal anomaly has been diagnosed. The term “fetocide” is used to describe late-term abortion (usually after 24 weeks) in New Zealand.  It appears that some women are sent to Australia for late-term abortions, while very late term babies who are aborted in New Zealand may have their deaths recorded as “still births”.

The fact that in practise abortion is available on demand is agreed upon by Alison McCulloch, the spokesperson for ALRANZ. In an April radio interview she stated “the anti-abortion side thinks we have abortion on demand. I think we have pretty good abortion access, also I tend to agree with them.” McCulloch also stated in that interview her desire for abortion to be available throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

In an attempt to justify their cause, the ALRANZ post pronounced “further restrictions on abortion will not lead to fewer Gosnell cases, but more.”

Dame Colleen Bayer, National Director of Family Life International NZ countered this claim by saying

 It is madness for ALRANZ to suggest that less restrictions on abortion will ensure New Zealand does not see cases like Gosnell happening. Real care and concern for women would ensure that further restrictions and monitoring were in place, not less.

Even though women cannot be prosecuted for having an abortion, ALRANZ attempts to scare monger by finishing the post with the following:

Looking to our own abortion laws in New Zealand and the continued criminalization of women, it [the Gosnell case] is a stark reminder that safe and legal abortion cannot be assured until it is a choice made freely by the pregnant person with free and easy access to all reproductive health services.

Right to Life spokesperson Ken Orr articulated the real issue reminding people that

This tragic case is a reminder that abortion is about violence against women and their pre-born. In every abortion a child is killed whether it is in filthy house of horrors killed by a sadistic murderer or in a clean sanitary clinic with a state funded serial killer immaculately dressed in a spotless surgical gown. The result is always the same, death to the innocent and defenceless child and violence inflicted on a helpless woman. There is no such thing as a safe abortion; they are all fatal.

Help for those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy in New Zealand can be obtained by phoning the nation-wide Option Line 0800 367 5433 or visiting www.pregnantandworried.org.nz

This article has been slightly modified from the original in regard to late-term abortions in New Zealand.


  1. It’s not just anecdotal that abortions take place after 20 weeks in NZ. Here’s written evidence that it is a “service” offered in Auckland.
    “When termination takes place after 24 weeks an additional process, called fetocide, is recommended so that the baby is not born alive.”

    As a doctor recently testified in the USA, if the mother’s life (or the baby’s life) is in danger you can “terminate” a late pregnancy without killing the baby by delivering the baby via Caesarian section.

    1. Thanks Stella for the correction. I had completely forgotten about this when writing at 4:30am! I had other people’s doubtful ideas about late-term abortions in NZ running around my head instead. Your input is greatly appreciated.

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