Stuff, abortions and a bit more stuff

Apologies for the lack of posting, think posting will be a bit less frequent for a while..

Anyhoo, some stuff…

Did you see this on Thursday night? It was cool!

Big ups to Tze Ming Mok yet another brilliantly written piece. I’ve been finding her posts incredibly interesting, informative and damn funny!

Left and Lefter has some brilliant photos of Israeli road signs.

Span has a great post and interesting discussion about abortion. Have to say this is an area that I’m quite passionate about. I have been studying this issue intently from a policy perspective for a year or so now and my perceptions have changed.

I have always been pro-choice (as I am with most moral issues) and was staunchly so in my idealistic university days. I was always quite hostile to critiques of the current laws because I always saw it as a smokescreen for banning abortion. But then I forced myself to read some critiques of the laws from all angles and learnt some interesting things. The main thing I read which changed my perspective was a book called “Abortion in the Netherlands – Why Holland has the lowest abortion rate in the Western world” by Marilyn Pryor (who passed away earlier this year, RIP). While there was a lot of assumptions in this book I didn’t agree with, it was still a damning critique of the current law.

Context: Legally in this country, we do not have abortion on demand. In fact, if you assist someone to have an abortion and you don’t comply will all relevant parts of the Crimes Act, you will be liable for up to 14 years in prison. And there are only certain reasons that you can legally deliver an abortion. The Crimes Act (S187A) says:

(1)For the purposes of sections 183 and 186 of this Act, any act specified in either of those sections is done unlawfully unless, in the case of a pregnancy of not more than 20 weeks’ gestation, the person doing the act believes—

(a)That the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger (not being danger normally attendant upon childbirth) to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl . . .; or

[[(aa)That there is a substantial risk that the child, if born, would be so physically or mentally abnormal as to be seriously handicapped; or]]

(b)That the pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse between—
(i)A parent and child; or
(ii)A brother and sister, whether of the whole blood or of the half blood; or
(iii)A grandparent and grandchild; or

(c)That the pregnancy is the result of sexual intercourse that constitutes an offence against section 131(1) of this Act; or

(d)That the woman or girl is severely subnormal within the meaning of section 138(2) of this Act.

(2)The following matters, while not in themselves grounds for any act specified in section 183 or section 186 of this Act, may be taken into account in determining for the purposes of subsection (1)(a) of this section, whether the continuance of the pregnancy would result in serious danger to her life or to her physical or mental health:

(a)The age of the woman or girl concerned is near the beginning or the end of the usual child-bearing years:

(b)The fact (where such is the case) that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the pregnancy is the result of [[sexual violation]].

(3)For the purposes of sections 183 and 186 of this Act, any act specified in either of those sections is done unlawfully unless, in the case of a pregnancy of more than 20 weeks’ gestation, the person doing the act believes that the miscarriage is necessary to save the life of the woman or girl or to prevent serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health.

So when you go and get an abortion in this country, you need to tick one of the above boxes. Usually, the reason given is the first option. And it is very loosely applied. If you can get two certifying consulatants to believe that completing a pregnancy will result in serious damage to your health (physical or mental), you can have your abortion terminated. So while legally we don’t have aborion on demand, in practice, we do.

Now this is where I have a problem with the law. I agree with Right to Life, it is deceitful. And at the same time, I agree with ALRANZ, it is deceitful. Obviously, both organisations come to this conclusion for very different reasons. You need to understand the context of how the law was passed. Cast your mind back to 1977 (if you were alive – I wasn’t). Parliament was a private den of seedy men, legislation debated over glasses of scotch and serious debate of issues was sporadic (oh how times have changed). The Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Bill was passed under urgency after a long and heated nationwide debate on the issue. The issue was debated in a remarkably different context to how we debate it now. The legislation was not constructed around the idea of how to making it work or not, it was around whether to have it or not. This is the problem with any kind of intial social reform legislation. Especially if it is a split conscious issue. Legislators who are emotionally stuck in the issue will always struggle to write a good law if they don’t agree with it. And some of them even try and make the law unworkable just to prove their point…

So I was interested to see the difference of approach in the Netherlands. When they passed their abortion laws they acknowledged that as many people in society were split on the issue, this would mean that users of abortion services would also be split on the issue to an extent. So they set up a system where women who want to have an abortion must have a counselling session and they must wait 24 (or 48 maybe) hours between their counselling session and the actual procedure. But the difference is that both pro-life and pro-choice approach counsellors are equally funded. You can go to either one and the clinic isn’t going to know which you go to, as long as you go and talk to someone. Also, there is the option for follow up help. This in my mind is a ‘very good thing’. And I will use my own experiences to say why.

confession time

I have had two abortions in my life. The first time I was 19 and it was bloody terrifying. I think even up to the time I arrived at the clinic I wasn’t 100% sure I was making the right decision. My partner at the time was a freaked out critter too. I had to sit in a room with a woman I had never met, who was obviously busy and really didn’t have the time to engage in the pure terror I was experiencing. She wanted to know exactly why I didn’t want to have this child. And I didn’t want to tell her. She scared me. I didn’t know or trust her. She said if I didn’t tell her, she would send me home. So I naturally burst into tears. The reasons I had for not wanting to continue that pregnancy were numerous and all interlinked. I would have to be really honest about a whole lot of stuff and this woman was so intimidating, how the fuck was I supposed to be honest with her?

So she ticked the ‘mental reasons’ box.


An hour later I was bustled into a room with a whole lot of strange people and then put through hell for 10 minutes. I couldn’t feel what was going on but I could hear and smell. They were all talking about me but not to me and I felt so removed from the whole process. Once it was finished they picked me up and bustled me out (past the waiting room and I was bawling my eyes out). And once I was ok, I was packed off again.

I cannot emphasise how traumatic that was. But I do realise that it wasn’t what I was having done, it was how it was done.

Then a couple of years ago I found out I was pregnant again *sigh* I was aware from the moment I suspected I was pregnant that I didn’t want this child and discussing it with my partner, neither did he. So the decision was already made.

But I did get to experience a radically different approach to services. This time, I had to make two visits. One to see a counsellor and one to have the procedure done. The woman I spoke to was a hell of a lot nicer as well but I don’t think that’s relevant to the comparison. I had a thorough opportunity to discuss any concerns I had, even ones not relating to my pregnancy and it was a safe and supportive environment.

On the actual day I had plenty of time beforehand to prepare myself. When I was in theatre, there were only two people there and they talked me through every little step of the way and constantly checked my well being. And afterwards I was given as much time as I needed in a private room before I went home to fully recover.

Now I can say that one of the main reasons I handled my second termination better than the first one was because I had aged/grown up/matured/turned into a more staunch feminist. But I know that the environment was a major contributor to my capacity to deal with it.

So when I read Marilyn Prior’s book I thought the idea of having equally funded seperate counselling services a pretty smart one.

I have discussed abortion with a number of women from all sides of the debate and one of the themes I have noticed is that those who are pro-life and have had an abortion relate a story of trauma in regards to their abortion. They have all related stories of not feeling supported, not being sure of the decision they were making and not understanding the process. This has led to regrets, anger, resentment and a whole host of other negatives which everyone agrees is not what we want as an outcome of abortion services.

So would seperate counselling help? In my opinion yes. I think it is essential that there is a time gap between counselling and the procedure itself. There can be a whole lot of emotional baggage floating around when your dealing with emotional healing/therapy and it can’t be good to have that baggage floating around while you’re going through a major piece of physical surgery. Secondly I believe (and I lose friends on this one) that the abortion services in this country are too staunch. I don’t blame them for this as I believe it is a result of the law, they are staunch to protect the right for women to use their services and good on them for that. However, if I was pro-life and I went in for an abortion I would like to have the option of speaking to someone who held a similar worldview.

The problem with this suggestion is of course the difficulty that would be faced in finding qualified pro-life counsellors willing to do the work, but I think that could be overcome.

I am interested to hear what people think about these ideas. I have discussed these issues with a number of feminist women recently and I have to say have been disappointed with their attitudes. Sure, women have a right to control their own bodies and the fact we treat pregnancy as a sickness and the termination of pregnancy as a criminal issue is a major problem. But those are bigger issues to tackle and in the meantime it would be good to think people are thinking about constructive strategies to deal with the high rate of abortion in this country. I believe that as a nation we do need to revisit this issue. Not to decide if women have a right to abortion or not but how we, as a nation, will support women with unwanted pregancies to make the decisions they need to make.

Span has a follow up post today and it deals with the issue of contraception. This is of course another BIG ISSUE in this debate but for the sake of brevity, I decided to leave it for another time.

And in other news, Tamaki is now a Bishop But did anyone see the photo in yesterday’s Herald? That particular style of stick he was carrying is referred to as a crook, something to do with the internal design which is geared around torturing baby sheep. Go figure.


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