“My Decision” but only if you’re pro-choice

Dr Bernard Nathanson
Dr Bernard Nathanson, one of the founders of NARAL and ex-abortionist holds my first-born at a pro-life conference in Auckland, New Zealand.

On Sunday, ALRANZ launched a new website “My Decision” which aims to intimidate and bully pro-life doctors through naming them and publishing women’s stories about their experiences with “hostile or unhelpful health professionals”.

Through the website ALRANZ wants to take options away from women by publishing the names of these individuals and organisations.  By doing this, it is being inferred that they are archaic, putting their own beliefs over and above good medicine, good science.  But these pro-life health professionals and crisis pregnancy centres are being honest, not only about their beliefs, but the science and medical evidence which shows that human life begins at the moment of fertilization and that some so-called contraceptives are abortifacient.

The irony of the site has not gone unnoticed.  Somehow, in the mixed up world of  “choice” every woman is free to make their own decision regarding “her body” as long as she embraces pro-choice rhetoric.

If she suffers after her abortion – it couldn’t be possible.

If she realises the reality of her decision to abort her child and then speaks out – she must be silenced.

If she approaches a pro-life doctor or a crisis pregnancy centre for help and support – she’s been sucked in to a world of lies and deceit and has been coerced into bringing her preborn child to birth.

If she chooses Natural Fertility methods over artificial birth control and abortifacients – she is seriously backward, and brainwashed by those religious zealots.

ALRANZ says that women must be able to access “reproductive health services” as a right.  They say this because it is critical to the religion of CHOICE.

But what about those of us who are pro-life and want to make our own decisions?

For us real choice does not exist.

It’s pretty hard for the average person to find out which medical professionals are directly involved in abortion in New Zealand.  In 2012, Southlanders for Life attempted to find out which practitioners were working at the newly opened Southland Hospital abortion facility.  ALRANZ were quick to say that this was a “dangerous bullying tactic”.

I think we could use the same words to describe the “My Decision” site.

And how’s this for pro-choice bullying?

I have given birth to seven children.  Each of their births were very difficult and six of my pregnancies were deemed high risk, complicated by gestational diabetes, occasional cholestasis of pregnancy and repeat cesarean sections.

Immediately after the birth of our third child the surgeon told me never to have another child.

Each of my last four pregnancies were difficult times – partly because of my health, but mainly from the outside stress from repeatedly being told by midwives and obstetricians that I MUST have a tubal ligation.

When I say repeatedly, I mean over and over again for each of the four pregnancies.  I have heard stories of women being asked once and then that is it.  That never happened to me.

One of my worse experiences was less than 24 hours after the birth of our fifth child.  I was desperately sick.  I had cried the whole way through that first night, trying to care for my newborn daughter while constantly vomiting and being restricted in my movement because of the cesarean section.

That morning,  the lead midwife (not my LMC), who I saw from time to time, came into my hospital room with the lecture that most people would be afraid to hear while well and happy.  In that lecture she told me that next time I would DIE.  My husband was completely irresponsible – and where was he anyway?  (Um looking after four kids at home while he too was unwell)…  Forget my religion – I could get a dispensation from my Bishop… I just HAD to have a tubal ligation… didn’t I get it?  She was RIGHT and I was WRONG.

Tell me where was MY DECISION in that conversation?  This midwife wanted to strip me of MY CHOICE  because I didn’t fit her pro-choice mold of contracepting and limiting my family size to two or three children.

Had I been a weaker person – and believe me it wouldn’t have taken too much more – I would have agreed with her.  I would have signed that bit of paper and been done with it.

That was not the only time I was spoken to like that in regards to having a tubal ligation, although it was the worst experience.  There were many other times – approximately 15 in all.  Most times my request to refuse the tubal ligation was NOT written in my notes, meaning I was asked over and over again.

I was terrified that one day someone would take matters into their own hands and sterilise me anyway.  Lucky for me, tubal ligation can only be performed with a patient’s permission.

I suspect that at times I was cared for by doctors, midwives and others who were involved in abortion and sterilisation.  It goes without saying that all of them prescribed birth control.  How I wish I could have made the CHOICE not to be treated by those who disregard human life on one hand while rejoicing in it on the other.

It’s a great thing that health professionals that promote and protect life in all it’s stages can stay true to their convictions, and do so with the protection of the law.  They should be able to do it without being bullied by those who want to change the rules to suit themselves.

So as ALRANZ harp on about a woman’s right to make her own decision, maybe they would like to consider that sometimes that decision will be for LIFE.  And that is not a bad thing.

Yes, there are women out there that don’t buy the pro-choice rhetoric and will stand up to the intimidation and bullying tactics.  I am proudly one of them.





Life affirming ultrasound

Ultrasound PhotoI recently had the experience of sitting in on a 19 week pregnancy scan. For my wife and I it was the first chance to see our new child and as such, we were both looking forward to it.

For many couples, the first pregnancy ultrasound is the first bonding experience they have with their new child.  Before the days of ultrasound, a mother’s first bonding to the new baby was started when she first felt the baby moving, but increasingly, the ultrasound is the first experience that mothers and fathers have with their new child.  This is recognised by medical researchers. It’s also probably been a factor in society’s increasing recognition of the humanity of the pre born child.

Forming this relationship between parents and the child is important. The strength of the bond will affect many outcomes for the child, particularly for the child’s education.

I have personally found a great deal of difference between sonographers.  I’ve had the privilege of seeing Shari Richard at work, and seen her infectious enthusiasm for the unborn child, and the positive effect it has on the child’s parents.  Few sonographers can match her enthusiasm.  I’ve seen other sonographers at work, including one working on me, although she wasn’t going to find a baby and wasn’t looking for one!  They differ greatly in the way they interact with parents about their new baby.  The most recent sonographer we had always referred to our child as ‘baby’, e.g. “This is babies head” etc.

But this isn’t always the case.  We had a scan in a previous pregnancy when the sonographer became very quiet.  Later we found out the reason – she had found a medical problem with our child.  Although it was potentially very serious, a couple of surgeries fixed the problem before it could do any serious damage, and our child now enjoys excellent health.

But why the difference in the response of the sonographer?  Our baby didn’t stop being our baby because he had a medical problem. We certainly didn’t love him any less.

But sonographers and other medical professional are influenced by abortion.  Abortion is considered a solution to many birth defects, so it’s natural for sonographers to moderate their enthusiasm for the baby during scans.

But this could affect the start of the formation of the bond between baby and parents. Crisis Pregnancy Centres have known for a long time the benefit of an expectant mother seeing her baby by ultrasound.  It encourages the bond to form between mother and child.  But ultrasound can be used in a way that doesn’t encourage this bonding.  Clinic profit motives and abortion quotas can affect the way ultrasound results are presented and interpreted.  A recent study of 15 500 women attending Planned Parenthood abortion clinics showed that viewing ultrasound images had very little effect on the mothers decision to abort her child.  It’s hard to imagine the ultrasound technicians in these abortion clinics wanted to present the humanity of the pre-born child and facilitate bonding between mother and child.

Similarly, using ultrasound as a search and destroy mission to eliminate less than perfect is not a good way to encourage bonding. It’s important for the sonographer to show the beauty and humanity of the pre-born child.  This is the start of a relationship that will last a lifetime.  It’s the most important relationship, and it deserves a good start.  Children do better when there is good bonding with their parents.  It’s here that the sensitivity to the minority that have abortions, affects the rest of us – and our children.

It is one of the ways that abortion affects us all.



Abortion and pre abortion visits

When the topic of liberalising abortion comes up, as it has recently, invariably there is talk about “increasing access” and reducing the number of visits required before a woman can have an abortion.

New Zealand law stipulates that the woman seeking an abortion must see two certifying consultants. Sometimes this can happen in one visit. Beyond this the law doesn’t specify anything about visits and appointments, but there is the need for a few more visits and procedures. The Abortion Supervisory Committee does have medical recommendations, but the extra visits and procedures are there more for medical reasons than legal.

Abortion providers generally want some basic tests done, and some information about when the woman became pregnant. This is important because different abortion procedures can only be used in some stages of pregnancy.

They want to know if there is an active sexually transmitted infection, as this can cause complications including chronic pelvic pain, infertility and increase risk of future ectopic pregnancy. One study of women presenting for an abortion found chlamydia at a rate of nearly 19% in one population group. Clearly it’s important to test and wait for the results before risking invasive surgery and all the risks of infection that can result.

One requirement that is very controversial overseas is ultrasound. There are some good reasons why it’s appropriate to do an ultrasound before an abortion. The first reason is to confirm that it’s a normal pregnancy, and not an ectopic or molar pregnancy. The recent case of “Dr N” highlights the risks or forgoing the ultrasound. She facilitated several of her patients to have medical abortions by providing the medication outside New Zealand’s current legal framework. One of these women had an ectopic pregnancy, which was not ended by the medical abortion. Later this patient was admitted to hospital for treatment due to a ruptured fallopian tube. Her outcome could have been much worse.

Ultrasound can confirm if the unborn child is healthy likely to survive to birth. There is an appreciable miscarriage rate in early pregnancy, and sometimes an ultrasound can predict a miscarriage before it happens. Clearly in these cases there is no need for the woman to be exposed to the additional trauma of an abortion. I’ve also heard that many women who have made up their mind to have an abortion, and then cry when they hear the news that their child has died, or will soon die.

An increasingly important feature of ultrasound is the ability to accurately estimate the age of the preborn baby. Many women are using forms of contraception that disrupt the normal menstrual cycle, which can make dating an unexpected pregnancy more difficult. The gestational age of the child is important information for abortion providers, as different methods of abortion are used as the gestational age of the child increases.

Blood tests are normally required. These indicate the health of the mother, and her rhesus blood group. If the mother is rhesus negative, and the baby is rhesus positive, after the abortion the mother may produce antibodies which could cause rhesus disease in her future babies. This can easily be prevented by an injection of ‘anti-D’ at the time of the abortion.

And then there is counselling. The Abortion Supervisory Committee strongly recommends counselling for all women wanting an abortion, both before and after abortion. This is universally optional, despite the growing evidence that abortion is harmful to a woman’s mental health.

It’s clear that the extra visits for a woman wanting an abortion in New Zealand are not because of some pro-life conspiracy, but are all justified on medical and evidence based grounds. They are certainly not hoops to be gotten through. They are there to protect the health of the woman and her future children.

But how much more could we protect women and children if we recognised the harm abortion does to them, and supported them in pregnancy and beyond? Then no unexpected pregnancy would be a crisis pregnancy, and every child could be born into a society which loves and affirms them.


Decriminalisation of what?


Decriminalising’ abortion is in the media again.  It’s not the first time it’s been in the news and it certainly will not be the last time.  This time it looks like it’s going to be an election issue, or at least there is an effort to make it an election issue.  What is being proposed this time is very familiar, and could have come from the wish list of any New Zealand pro-abortion lobby group.

The main proposal is to remove abortion from the Crimes Act.  There is also a desire to reduce the time and complication required before a woman has an abortion.  And there is a desire to keep the status quo for abortions after 20 weeks, (although pre-born children with fetal abnormalities post 20 weeks are targeted).  None of this will happen if abortion is removed from the Crimes Act, unless other legislation is changed too.  Most of the regulations for the two Certifying Consultants are not in the Crimes Act, they are in the Contraception Sterilisation, and Abortion (CSA) act 1977.  So removing abortion from Crimes Act would not streamline the consulting process. And no one has mentioned changing CSA.  Furthermore, the distinction between abortions before 20 weeks and after 20 weeks is in the Crimes Act.  So if abortion was simply removed from the Crimes Act, the likely result would be virtually abortion on demand for the full 40 weeks of pregnancy.

All of this is supposedly to benefit women having abortions and to protect them from the law.  But the Crimes Act specifically protects women from prosecution. It only has legal sanctions against doctors and others involved in preforming abortions.

So this raises the question, is removing abortion from the Crimes Act an attempt to benefit women or is it really a way to move abortion out of the public health system, and create a US style abortion industry with legal protection for doctors to exploit vulnerable women? There are some hints in the usual rhetoric of the recent policy announcement. The issue of consistency of access to abortion across New Zealand and especially in provincial areas is constantly brought up by the pro-abortion movement. People who live far away from major hospitals have a lot of issues accessing timely healthcare and paying for accommodation and travel. It’s big issue in maternity care but somehow abortion promoters forget to talk about that ‘women’s health’ issue.

Removing the oversight of the abortion referral process, and allowing more abortions to take place outside of a hospital setting is going to allow a US or Australian style for profit abortion industry to thrive in New Zealand. I don’t know if our politicians are aware of this, but I know the abortion promoters are. After all, Family Planning did bring in the US$523 616 paid CEO of the United States largest abortion provider to teach them how to bring a ‘reproductive rights’ movement into New Zealand.

And speaking of Cecile Richards, the line about ‘trusting women’ comes straight from her.  Richards’ ‘trust’ of vulnerable women has seen her organisation increase the numbers of abortions it performs during her leadership, as the total number of abortions in the US is declining.

I’ve never met a women at this Centre that I won’t trust. Abortion isn’t, and never has been about trust. Most of these women feel that they don’t have a choice. To say that they ‘trust’ women in crisis circumstances, but then to only offer abortion as a way out, is exploiting women.

It is pleasing to see there is talk of offering more assistance to pregnant women. But government agencies don’t have a great record of catering to the needs of people in crisis. From my own experience they are better at causing stress than they are in relieving it. I’m pleased to work for an organisation that provides practical help for people without them having to have a degree in paperwork. But helping isn’t always wanted by our politicians if they have political issues with us.

So removing abortion from the Crimes Act would seem to benefit doctors and business plans more than women. And removing certifying requirements would allow some of the worst excesses of the Australian and US abortion industry to happen here.

If we are going to change our laws on abortion, shouldn’t we change them to protect women and children, rather than to allow them to be exploited and killed?


The Edges of Life

Grandpa and baby

The edges of life are controversial. On one side there are the debates about contraception, abortion and in vitro fertilisation. At the end of life the debates are about euthanasia, organ transplantation, and its cousin, brain death.

Trauma surgeon Peter Rhee is rewriting the rules on brain death. Normally when we see this, it’s someone wanting to declare people dead sooner so their organs can be harvested for transplantation into other sick patients. Peter Rhee is taking the definition in the other direction.

While Dr Rhee’s name might not be that well known, some of his patients are. He was one of congresswoman Gabby Giffords doctors. Dr Rhee knows about death. He’s a trauma surgeon who has seen mass shooting patients in the United States. He’s also been to Iraq and Afghanistan to save the lives of soldiers, even going behind enemy lines to treat the injured. He’s even been selected as a personal surgeon to the president of the US on an overseas trip.

But it’s patients in the US that might be rewriting the rules on when death occurs. He’s part of a team that’s been experimenting on ‘suspended animation’, to save trauma patients. The team has permission to start human trials on trauma patients who have gone into heart failure and can’t be resuscitated by current techniques. The team will rapidly cool the patient’s body to 10°C (50°F), where metabolic activity slows almost to a stop. In this state, the heart is stopped, there is no breathing, and no detectable brain activity. This would be normally be considered clinical death. But the surgeons have 2 hours to repair their patient’s injuries before slowly warming them up and reviving them. If their prior work holds up in human trials, up to 90% of patients could survive the cooling and rewarming procedure itself.

And that 2 hours is time the surgeons wouldn’t normally have for life saving surgery. This technique will only work if they are able to apply it to the patient in the minutes after heart failure before brain damage starts to take place. Previous work has so far shown no brain damage or impaired function from the cooling and rewarming procedure. The team will be following their patients closely to see if this is also the case in the human trials.

Some of Rhee’s comments on the research and his clinical work are telling, “Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It’s frustrating to know there’s a solution”.

Dr Rhee is saying that the current definition of death is inadequate and often premature. We often see that definitions of life and death are based on what is convenient. Some organs can only be ‘harvested’ from a ‘dead’ person where there is a heartbeat. Some of these ‘dead’ people have woken on the operating table, moments before their organs were going to be harvested.

Definitions also chip away at the other end of life too. Many medical and legal organisations now define ‘established pregnancy’ as starting at implantation, not conception (fertilisation). Once pregnancy is defined at implantation, and abortion is defined as ending a pregnancy, then emergency ‘contraception’ doesn’t cause ‘abortions’. And if you jump through the same linguistic hoops, hormonal contraceptives don’t cause abortions either. Despite the words and definitions, human embryos are still being destroyed by so called ‘contraceptives’.

The extreme view of this is held by Australian ethicist Peter Singer, and Nobel prize winning molecular biologist James Watson, who have stated that new-born infants shouldn’t be declared alive straight after birth. These frightening ideas were put forward to allow new-borns to be left to die, or even directly killed. Pro-abortion organisations have even opposed regulations that protect the life of a child born alive after abortion.

Given these developments, we should applaud the efforts of scientist and doctors where they are true to their profession and work to save lives, especially when they are able to save the life that couldn’t previously be saved.


IVF as exploitation


I think the Catholic Church’s opposition to IVF is well known. It’s based on the principle that IVF separates intercourse from procreation. In some ways it’s like contraception, only in reverse. It’s also very costly in terms of human life at the stage of the human embryo.

But it has a very human side too. The desire for children can be very strong. And many couples find it difficult to conceive. For many of these couples, that realisation doesn’t come until the last years of their fertility, which adds a sense of urgency.

If these couples are blessed to live in a part of world where there is good fertility treatment which is morally acceptable, then they have the option for a treatment that works with a woman’s natural cycle. In other areas, there are less options, typically only IVF.

IVF is hard on the couples who go through it. The scientific literature documents cycles of anxiety which the women experience during cycles and depression after failed cycles. The hormones used to stimulate the ovaries into releasing eggs are not kind to women. The process of collecting eggs is physically painful, but this pain is described as less than the emotional pain. Each cycle of treatment brings more anticipation and anxiety.

Men feel disconnected from the whole procedure, as if they are passive observers in the creation of their own children. I’ve even heard of one father who wasn’t even present in the same country as his wife when his child was conceived.

Approximately 40% of infertility is due to male problems. Is it right that the women should be exposed to all the risk and pain of IVF to overcome the male’s infertility? And a male’s infertility can be a symptom of serious disease. The failure to fully investigate this can be the lost chance to treat a potentially serious problem.

Some centres will not accept older couples, as they have a lower chance of success. This is to improve the success rating of the treatment centre, rather than for the benefit of the couple.

The cost of the treatment is very high. Here in New Zealand there is some public funding available for those who meet the criteria. For those that don’t, it’s upwards of $10 000 per cycle, and nearly $30 000 for a typical 3 cycle treatment.  This is far more than many can afford. Is it just that only the wealthy can have children?

The heartache doesn’t stop when the treatment ends. For couples who are unsuccessful, there is no clearly defined end of treatment. Would one more cycle give them the baby they want? And often there is no reason found for their inability to have a baby.

There is immediate relief for couples who get a baby. But frequently there are ‘leftover’ embryos. Currently in excess of 10 000 in New Zealand alone. Many couples end their treatment with no intention of having more children. But frequently they correctly identify these embryos as being the siblings of the children they already have at home. They don’t want to bring them to birth, but they don’t have any morally acceptable alternatives. They see them as theirs, so they don’t want to donate them to others. And because they have some understanding of their humanity, they don’t want them destroyed by the clinic or by medical researchers. So every time the bill for cold storage arrives, there is a repeat of the anxiety. In the past many couples just paid the bill and put off making a decision. But now they will be forced to make the decision after 10 years. These dilemmas aren’t adequately considered before starting IVF.

There are new morally acceptable fertility treatments available under the banner of NaProTechnology. These treatments diagnose problems with fertility, and then treat them and work with a women’s natural cycle. The babies that result are born from an act of love, rather than a medical technique in a petri dish. For New Zealanders, the closest doctors are in Brisbane and Adelaide, Australia. But there are several practitioners in New Zealand who can start couples off with charting their fertility. That information can later be used by the overseas doctors. NaProTechnology is very successful helping couples with fertility problems to become pregnant. It also helps with many other gynaecological problems. And even for the couple who it can’t help to have a baby, at least it often tells them what the problem is with their fertility. For many, this can be a comfort. After 3 years of practising natural family planning 55% of subfertile couple conceive naturally. NaProTechnology results in even more couples having babies, and sooner.

It there is one last solution for those who wish to have children, who are infertile. It’s adoption. With the queues of people lining up for fertility treatment, how can we say that the more than 14 000 children aborted last year were “unwanted”?


The Pope praises Humanae Vitae

ImageEarly this week an interview of Pope Francis was run by a major Italian newspaper. As is typical with Pope Francis, he is relaxed with the media, and shows a great deal of skill and honesty with his answers. He’s not afraid of the tough questions, and says he even welcomes them when it’s a chance for dialogue.

The interview didn’t avoid any tough questions, it covered the sexual abuse scandal, divorce, remarriage and civil unions, globalisation, Marxism and many other topics.

He also touched on several topics of interest to the pro-life movement, including contraception, and end of life treatment.

He was asked on non-negotiable values, he was adamant that these values are essential. He rejected the idea that these values are like trading cards, which can be swapped and traded, while keeping a few favourites. He compares these ‘values’ to parts of his own body. In his own words:

I never understood the expression “non-negotiable values.” Values are values and that’s that. I can’t say which of the fingers of the hand is more useful than the rest, so I don’t understand in what sense there could be negotiable values. What I had to say on the topic of life I have put in writing in “Evangelii Gaudium.”

The Pope expresses much about values and morals in Evangelii Gaudium. He says that individual doctrines of the Church must be understood as part of the gospel, and joyfully expressed. This links these values to the whole of the Church’s teaching and to the person of Christ himself. So these ‘values’ are no longer dry doctrines, but a living, breathing expression of a Christian’s joyful faith.

The Pope praised Humanae Vitae:

It all depends on how the text of “Humanae Vitae” is interpreted. Paul VI himself, towards the end, recommended to confessors much mercy and attention to concrete situations. But his genius was prophetic, as he had the courage to go against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to apply a cultural brake, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism.

Pope PauI VI certainly had the courage to go against the majority. With more than 40 years of experience with contraception, it’s now obvious the damage that it’s causes. When Paul VI wrote Humanae vitae, that damage was much less obvious. But the Pope predicted it accurately. And despite this bold and prophetic proclamation of the truth, document is very gently written, with the heart of a pastor. I think it’s this that resonates with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis reminds us of the need for confessors to show “much mercy and attention to concrete situations”. This is reminiscent of the much misrepresented comments of Benedict XVI on condoms. It’s not a dilution of the teaching, but working with people to bring them to a full understanding of the truth. In many cases, it will not be an instant conversion. We don’t need to change any teaching or approve of any sin.

Pope Francis is also asked about end of life care for the people in a ‘vegetative state’. The Pope reiterated the Church’s teaching on end of life care. He also acknowledged that he isn’t a bioethicist, and the need for palliative care.

In these answers, Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is a “son of the Church”. He follows and protects the doctrines of the Church, but more than that, he wants to show us that they all come from the person of Christ. He wants to make these doctrines or ‘values’ make sense and have a meaning and purpose in the faith of the Christian.

And one year on into his Papacy, the world is still watching and taking notice. Let’s hope that they truly hear the message he preaches.