As an organisation which serves pregnant women and their families, many of whom are facing unexpected and difficult pregnancies, our organisation opposes the Abortion Legislation Bill.
One of the stated purposes of the Bill is to take it from the Crimes Act and decriminalise abortion.
Proponents of the Bill have done much to misrepresent this aspect of the current law by implying that it exists to malign and punish women who have abortions and that it is somehow anti-woman.
Yet, if we look at the intent and application of the existing law surrounding abortion we find it was in essence an effort to be:
1. A safeguard to protect women from negligent and dangerous abortionists and abortions.
Historically in the last 40 years, since the law came into existence, and over-500,000 abortion procedures have taken place, no woman in New Zealand has ever been prosecuted under the Crimes Act. In fact, the Crimes Act states a woman cannot be convicted for procuring an abortion within the exceptions granted by the current law.
Abortion is not a simple risk-free procedure. While admittedly New Zealand women have suffered physical complications (e.g. perforated uteruses, haemorrhaging and infections) [i] as a consequence of abortion, there have been no reported deaths happening as a direct result of physical complications arising from abortion. This contrasts with the States which has a more liberal abortion law and partial reporting which still indicates many fatalities have occurred since the inception of Roe vs Wade in 1973. [ii]
2. An effort to balance the freedom and rights of the mother with the freedom and rights of the child.
The unborn child has very limited rights under the current law and its application. Yet, still at the very least there is a written recognition of their existence and rights needing to be considered.
It is only fair that the humanity of the unborn child be acknowledged in law. Otherwise two dangerous precedents are set. Firstly, one section of our society is dehumanised and denied their human right to life [iii] and, secondly, the more powerful in society are permitted to deny weaker members their rights. Our nation’s most vulnerable need protecting for no other reason than that they exist.
It is also in the best interests of a woman contemplating abortion to have all the information she needs. She deserves to be fully informed and that means not being kept in the dark about her child’s humanity. The Law plays a part in making knowledge commonplace. Some women are quite literally shattered to discover, long after their abortion, the truth about their child’s stage of development and humanity. At least, even when it does come late, it is that knowledge that can help them to make sense of the anguish they have carried often for years, alone and silently. Acknowledging that truth about the other involved in their abortion helps them to seek reconciliation and find peace.
Under this Bill the unborn are offered some protection in that it will still be a criminal offence to assault a woman and kill her unborn child. This is a contradiction – on one hand the pre-born child has a right to life and on the other it has no right to life.
Part of the law’s duty is to surely reflect the truth about humanity in a way that is honest and consistent. Biology is very clear; life begins at conception and, therefore, so do human rights.
Making Abortion about Health
The Bill places abortion under the realm of regular healthcare without providing a reasoned argument for doing so. We will present the case for abortion not being genuine, routine healthcare using research; appropriate medical care guidelines and our experience. It is up to the proponents of the Bill to prove that abortion, as proposed under this Bill, meets the universal health guidelines and restrictions and is, therefore, scientifically, ethically and medically appropriate.
What other healthcare procedures can a New Zealander demand as a right without first allowing for a medical assessment and referral? Good medical care will ask the questions: Is it necessary to treat her; if it is, what treatment will best help her? Is it beneficial; will her illness be improved as a result of medically determined treatment? Is there any possible harm from the treatment and, if so, do the benefits outweigh the harm?
Is it necessary?
It is at times claimed that abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life.
Well-meaning doctors may believe at times abortion is needed. However, there are plenty of reports by medical personnel who testify that abortion is never necessary to save the life of a women. [iv] In fact in some situations it can even put her life at greater risk. There are over a thousand obstetrician-gynaecologists world-wide who attest that there is no known medical condition in which abortion is medically necessary. [v]
Further, some appropriate and necessary medical procedures that are not actually abortion can occur within the realm of good health-care without the passing of the Abortion Legislation Bill. For instance,
- The removal of an affected tube with an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion.
- Early pre-term delivery in the event of a medical emergency where the child may sadly even die is not an abortion. There is a real difference between separating the baby and the mother in times of danger and then trying to help both survive, and, the direct and intentional taking of the life of the unborn in abortion.
- An unborn child dying as a result of treatment a mother chooses to undergo for her own health needs (e.g. cancer) is also not an abortion.
The Abortion Supervisory Committee list a small number of abortions that were required due to “danger to life” and “danger to physical health.” [vi] Were these ectopic pregnancies? What dangers are they talking about? This information is crucial to understand how the abortion workers in New Zealand are defining and categorising situations because it does not seem to fit in with other medical evidence. The New Zealand public deserve greater transparency.
- There is no evidence that abortion is necessary to improve mental health, in fact, the evidence is the reverse, that mental health is affected adversely by abortion. [vii]
- There is no evidence suggesting that abortion is necessary for improving social problems. Abortion does not reduce child abuse; those who have abortions were more likely to mistreat their children. [viii]
Should the NZ Abortion Supervisory Council be using an all-encompassing definition of abortion to include the above-mentioned situations then we can say the need is very minimal. There are no actual health conditions that necessitate a woman to have an abortion to improve her health.
If abortion is not necessary it cannot be beneficial to a woman’s health. What beneficial outcomes do proponents claim though?
- Relief: Even when Brenda Major set out to show that women who have abortions primarily find relief, she found and reported that over time the sense of relief diminished, negative emotions and the feelings of regret increased. [ix] Abortion brings no lasting relief.
- Unsafe Abortions: Sometimes it is stated that legal abortion will prevent unsafe back street abortions, and reduce maternal deaths. However, there is no evidence that this is so. For example, Chile made abortions illegal in 1989 and found the rate of illegal abortions declined and so did the maternal mortality rate, from 41.3 to 12.7 per 100,000 a 69.2% reduction. [x]
- Disease Prevention: Sexually transmitted diseases and infections have grown with legalised abortion. Of those patients who have a chlamydia infection at the time of an abortion 23% will develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease within 4 weeks. Studies have found that 20-30% of those seeking abortions have a chlamydia infection. 5% of the patients who are not infected by chlamydia also develop PID. [xi] Abortion providers should screen for and treat such infections prior to an abortion.
As abortion is never necessary to treat a woman’s health condition, there are no known health benefits to a woman procuring an abortion.
Can abortion be harmful to a woman’s health?
A list of some of the well-researched harms are:
1. Physical Harm
i) Short Term Side Effects and Risks vary with the abortion procedure and tend to be more serious in second and third trimester abortions. They include but aren’t limited to nausea, abdominal pain, cramping, dizziness, fatigue, haemorrhaging, infection, uterine perforation, damage to bowel, bladder and other structures. [xii] We have met New Zealand women who needed surgery to have organs patched up after abortion damage and listened to their grief.
ii) Long Term Risks. Studies show association between abortion and these risk factors in studies to date. Risks detected are:
a. Breast Cancer: While this connection between breast cancer and abortion has been contested it is now well established that a person who has an abortion is at a greater risk of developing breast cancer, especially if it is her first pregnancy. [xiii]
b. Premature Birth: There are many studies showing that premature births following an abortion are more frequent. [xiv]
c. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Of those patients who have a chlamydia infection at the time of an abortion 23% will develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease within 4 weeks. Studies have found that 20-30% of those seeking abortions have a chlamydia infection. 5% of the patients who are not infected by chlamydia also develop PID. (as above, the USA study)
d. Self Harm: Post abortion women sadly are more at risk of self-harm behaviour.
e. Excess Mortality. US women who aborted were 62% more likely to die over an 8 year period from any cause (Reardon et al 2002)
A Finish study showed post-pregnancy death rates within one year were nearly 3.5 times greater among women who had an induced abortion (Gissler et al 1987-1994)
In a later study the same author found that mortality was significantly lower after birth (28.2 per 100,000) than after induced abortion (83.1 per 100,000) (Gissler et al 1987 -2000)
Post abortion women are statistically more likely to be murdered in the 8 year covered by the research with matched identities of 180,000 women. (Reardon et all) [xv]
2. Mental Harm
a. Psychiatric Admission: The rate of admission is 240% higher in post abortion women. (Reardon)
b. Suicide: In post abortion women suicide is 3 times (Reardon) and 6 times (Gissler) higher compared to women who give birth. Pregnant women are less likely to commit suicide. [xvi]
Worldwide recognised 30 year longitudinal NZ study (Ferguson, 2008) found that abortion increases suicidal ideation risk 61%
The heart-wrenching words of a NZ man who spoke about losing both his child and his wife to abortion – “my child was aborted and my wife soon after took her life”.
c. Depression: Is common for women after an abortion. NZ 2008 study found depression increased 30% for those who had an abortion compared to other pregnancy outcomes.
d. Anxiety: Researchers compared women with no previous history of anxiety disorders and who had their first unintended pregnancy. Women who had abortions were 30% more like to experience all the symptoms associated with a diagnosis for generalised anxiety disorder than those who carried to term. [xvii]
e. Alcoholism: Many scientists have conclusively shown that post abortion women compared to post pregnancy women become very difficult to treat alcoholics. [xviii]
f. Marital Breakdown. Post abortion women are more likely to have marital conflict and marriage breakdown. [xix]
g. Poor Parent-Infant Bonding Post abortion women bond less well to their newborn babies when previous one/s were aborted. Bonding protects babies from a parent’s episodic abuse and neglect. Contrary to common thinking the rates of child abuse and neglect climbed steeply, parallel to the increase in rates of abortion. [xx]
h. Increased Drug Abuse. The NZ 2008 study indicated a 185% illicit drug dependence in post abortion women. This study’s findings concur with others around the globe. [xxi]
What do abortion supporters say about the harm to women?
The science indicating the harm connected with having an abortion is too often ignored, dismissed or undermined. Yet there are signs that even those participating in abortion also know of the harm.
A Clinician’s Guide to Medical and Surgical Abortion, is a text book by and for abortion providers. They list negative reactions to abortion as including: suicidal ideation; losing interest in enjoyable activities; substance abuse; nightmares about killing or saving babies; indiscriminate sex and relationships with abusive partners; blocking out the experience; avoiding triggers etc. [xxii] These are all symptoms of post-traumatic stress we hear about from women we serve.
In their 2009 text book they list 18 risk factors of women who are more likely to suffer after an abortion including those with an existing mental illness prior to the abortion; those with significant ambivalence about the decision; those who perceive they are being coerced to have the abortion; those with past childhood sexual abuse and those with commitment to the pregnancy. [xxiii]
So there is a common recognition and agreement between the research and the abortion practitioners on many of the symptoms that can occur after abortion and on the pre-abortion indicators of increased risk of mental health issues.
Harm to Others
We have not touched on the harm done to other individuals including fathers; sibling survivors; survivors living with a disability; actual survivors of an attempted abortion; grandparents and society generally. The pain, grief, anger, fear, rejection and hopelessness the other victims experience is real and they too are now reaching out to organisations like ours for help.
Other Considerations on the Abortion Legislation Bill and Related Matters:
No Screening: When also abortion providers admit certain women and teenagers are at risk of trauma symptoms due to a pre-abortion condition it is negligent to not provide assessments and screening. Teenagers and women deserve to be warned of all the risks associated with abortion and especially the ones pertaining to themselves. They also deserve care that will protect them from those risks.
Coercion: In an age when New Zealand is very aware of family violence, abuse and trafficking it would seem appropriate, in any attempt to modernise abortion legislation, to mindfully include restrictions against coercion and pressure on a girl or woman to have an abortion.
Sex selection: The Bill provides no regulations or safety nets for unborn children at risk of being aborted for being the ‘wrong’ sex. Sex selection abortion is a huge problem in China and India creating a devastating imbalance in their populations. Estimates are between 23 million and 113-200 million girls are missing world-wide due to sex selection abortions. [xxiv]
Disability: Sadly unborn children with a disability remain discriminated against in this Bill. There is no suggestion of protection or care for the smallest and most vulnerable in our disability community setting a grim precedence and making a mockery of New Zealand’s efforts to care for those already born with a disability.
Deterioration of Maternity Services: New Zealand’s maternity services are struggling to meet existing needs which is of great concern. We need maternal health resources for pregnant women to be given in way that is life-affirming. It is also quite feasible that the bad health outcomes which abortion contributes to are actually contributing to growing mental health costs and, also, the high needs of neo-natal care for pre-term babies.
Denial of Freedoms: The Bill states a medical practitioner must act against their conscience and prevents them from practising self-regulated evidence based healthcare by referring a woman requesting an abortion to the Ministry of Health. This is a serious infringement of their right to act according to their conscience and practice good medicine. Not only will this affect individuals in their employment but it creates a threat to our culture of good self-regulated evidence-based medicine.
The provision for ‘safe areas’ to be created around the abortion premises also infringes on the rights of ordinary citizens to assemble freely in a peaceful manner. People gather at sites where great tragedy occurs in order to grieve and show solidarity with victims. This is normal human behaviour and fittingly happens outside abortion facilities.
Citizens also have a duty to warn their fellow human beings of danger and to offer assistance wherever possible. Caring pro-life people extend to women options that they may not have known existed.
There are already adequate laws that can deal with anyone who is doing more than having a peaceful assembly.
No Real Solutions: In a sense categorising abortion as a form of healthcare is dismissive of a woman and her ability to find the strength she needs to care for her child when small, weak and vulnerable. The bill does nothing to offer women facing an unexpected pregnancy real health or social answers for the issues she faces. We find once a woman in a difficult pregnancy discovers the support and help she needs she is able to do what she previously thought was impossible. The joy and gratitude she experiences giving life and making a good parenting plan for her child is healthy living.
There is no scientific evidence of the necessity for abortion to treat any known medical, surgical or psychiatric complaint.
The proponents of the Bill have not shown that abortion is necessary treatment for pregnant women and that it has health benefits that outweigh any harm done.
It is the government’s role to be the guardian of the health system. It is a neglect of duty to allow health personnel to act wrongly by performing and promoting procedures that are not proven to uphold basic health regulating guidelines. Thus no one can perform an abortion in good faith or claim they are working for the good health of women. Those who have left the practice of aborting women are the first to acknowledge they were not helping women in any way. [xxv]
New Zealand is a country grappling with high rates of violence including child abuse; domestic violence and suicide. The Bill dehumanises little human beings in their earliest days and months by taking away their rights and allowing them to be starved, poisoned or torn apart. If we are at all serious about ending violence in New Zealand we will start by doing so in the womb, for as Martin Luther told his people ‘violence begets violence’.
That the Abortion Legislation Bill is withdrawn until its proponents can prove beyond a doubt that abortion meets the universal principles of good health care and is, therefore, scientifically, ethically and medically appropriate.
That the government, recognising that life begins at conception, ensures the humanity and rights of the unborn child continues to be acknowledged in legislation, including the Crimes Act.
That the government, recognising that child abuse, family violence and trafficking are real problems, acknowledge the need for a clear message in the law to women that they cannot be forced to have an abortion. Abusers and criminals will use forced abortion to cover up their crimes and NZ women should find protection in the law by a clear statement that it is illegal for anyone to force a person to have an abortion.
That the government, acknowledging the intention to end the life of the unborn child and also the risks associated with abortion, preserve the right of New Zealanders especially medical personnel who practice correct self-regulation of evidence based medicine to not be involved in performing, promoting, referring or supporting abortion.
That there be no interference with the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of ordinary New Zealanders.
That the government do all in its power to create a just society, helping New Zealanders to respect and care for each other without usurping another’s rights, especially the right to life.
[i] Abortion Supervisory Committee Annual Report 2017, Page 22, Table 10.1 Induced Abortions by Complication.
[ii] For instance, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported that, “In the year 2010, a total of 10 women died from legal abortions. But not a single woman died of illegal abortions in 2010” https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6311a1.htm?s_cid=ss6311a1_e
Under Roe vs Wade from 1973 to 2014, there were 421 deaths from legal abortion and 56 deaths from illegal abortions. (with the circumstances of 13 deaths reported as “unknown”)
[iii] Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 expressly requires states to protect children “before birth”
[iv] Dr Anthony Levatino, who performed 1,200 abortions and has treated hundreds of women with severe and life-threathening problems with their pregnancies, including cardiac, cancer, toxaemia, diabetes, and elevated blood pressure in pregnancy gave evidence before the US Congress. He used a real situation to illustrate for Congress why abortion was not the answer to save a woman at risk later in pregnancy either. “A patient at 27 weeks gestation presented with a blood pressure of 220/140 and I knew she was moments, perhaps hours, away from having a stroke. She was stabilised and delivered. She had a healthy baby and she did well also. I was able to stabilise and deliver her within an hour because that is what is required when you have an emergency of that magnitude. Abortion would be worthless in that situation. At 27 weeks gestation, as I have already described to you, it would have taken three days to prepare her for an abortion.”
[vi] Abortion Supervisory Report 2017, Page 21, Table 8.1 Induced Abortion By Grounds for Abortion.
[vii] Fergusson DM, Horwood LJ, Boden JM, Reactions to Abortion and Subsequent Mental Health, Br J Psychiatry 2009; 195: 420-426. Fergusson DM , Horwood LJ, Boden JM. Does abortion reduce the mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy? A re-appraisal of the evidence. Aust N Z J Psychiatry. 2013 Sep;47(9):819-27.
[viii] Ney PG, Relationships between child abuse and abortion, Can J. Psychiatry 1979; 24 610-620.
[x] Koch E. The Epidemiology of Abortion and Its Prevention in Chile. Issues Law Med. 2015 spring; 30(1):71-85
[xi] David Reardon, “Abortion Malpractice” 1993
[xii] Health Research Council of New Zealand; Elliott Institute; abortionservices.org
[xiii] Wechter D, Harrison D. A second opinion: Response to 100 Professors. Issues in Law and Medicine 2014; 29: 147-159.
Huang Y. et al A meta-analysis of the association between induced abortion and breast cancer among Chinese females, Cancer Causes and Control 2014; 25: 227-36.
Rai M. et al Assessment of epidemiological factors associated with breast cancer, Indian Journal of Prevention Society of Medicine,2008; 39:71-77.
Bhadoria A. et al, Reproductive factors and breast cancer: a case control study in tertiary hospital in North India, Indian J Cancer 2013;50: 316-21
Carroll PS, The breast cancer epidemic: Modeling and prediction based on abortion and other risk factors, Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 2007; 12:72-8)
Schneider AP et al.The breast cancer epidemic: 10 facts, Linacre Q. 2014 Aug;81(3):244-77.
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Daling JR et al Risk of breast cancer among young women; Relationship to induced abortion. J Natl Cancer Inst 1994; 86: 1584- 92.
[xiv] Behrman RS, Butler AS, Alexander GR. Preterm Birth: Causes, Consequences, and Prevention. National Academy Press, Washington DC (2007). [http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_11622&page=625]
Ghislain H, Benjamin A, Haimm A, Abenhaim. Effects of Induced Abortions on Early Preterm Births and Adverse Perinatal Outcomes. J Obstetrics Gynaecology Canada. 2013 ;35 (2): 138-143.
Scholtern BL, Page-Christiaens CML, Franx A, Hukkelhoven CWPM, Koster MPH.The Influence of pregnancy termination on the outcome of subsequent pregnancies: a retrospective cohort study. BMJ Open 2013 -002803.
[xv] Gissler M. et al Pregnancy-associated deaths in Finland 1987-1994; definition problems and benefits of record linkage Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 1997; 76: 651-7
Gissler M, Berg C,et al. Injury deaths, suicides and homicides associated with pregnancy, Finland 1987-2000..Eur J Public Health. 2005 Oct;15(5):459-63. Epub 2005 Jul 28.
COLEMAN PK, Reardon DC, Calhoun BC, Reproductive history patterns and long term mortality rates: a Danish population based linkage study. Eur J Public Health 2013; 23: 569-74.
[xvi] Reardon D, Ney PG. et al Deaths Associated with Pregnancy Outcome: A record linkage study of low income women. Southern Medical Journal 2002; 95: 834-841.
Gissler M. Hemminki E, Lonnqvist J. Suicides after pregnancy in Finland, 1987-941996 BMJ. 1996 Dec 7; 313(7070):1431-4.
[xvii] JR Cougle, DC Reardon, PK Coleman, “Generalized Anxiety Following Unintended Pregnancies Resolved Through Childbirth and Abortion: A Cohort Study of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth,” Journal of Anxiety Disorders 19:137-142, 2005.
[xviii] Reardon DM Ney PG Abortion and Subsequent Substance Abuse Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse 2000; 26: 61-75.
[xix] Mauldon J. Foster DG Roberts SC, Effect of abortion vs. carrying to term on a woman’s relationship with the man involved in the pregnancy Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2015 Mar; 47(1):11-8. doi: 10.1363/47e2315. Epub 2014 Sep 8.
P.K. Coleman, V.M. Rue, C.T. Coyle, “Induced abortion and intimate relationship quality in the Chicago Health and Social Life Survey,” Public Health (2009), doi:10,1016/j.puhe.2009.01.005.
[xx] Ney PG, Relationships between child abuse and abortion, Can J. Psychiatry 1979; 24 610-620.
[xxi] PK Coleman, DC Reardon, JR Cougle, “Substance use among pregnant women in the context of previous reproductive loss and desire for current pregnancy,” British Journal of Health Psychology 10, 255-268, 2005.
[xxii] A Baker, T. Beresford, G. Halvorson-Boyd and J.M. Garrity, “Informed Consent, Counselling, and Patient Preparation,” in A Clinician’s Guide to Medical and Surgical Abortion, d. Maureen Paul, E. Steven Lichtenberg, Lyn Borgatta, David A. Grimes and Phillip G. Stubblefield (Philadelphia, PA: Churchill Livingston, 1999), 28-29
[xxiii] Paul et al “Risk Factors for Negative Emotional Sequelae.” Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive Abortion Care 2009, 57.
[xxv] Abby Johnson, Unplanned – (book and movie)
Bernard Nathanson M.D, In the Hand of God. Regnery Publishing; 1st Ed edition (April 1, 1996)