In blog

The NZ Herald are running an article this morning on a toll free number that abortionist Simon Snook is running in reaction to alleged delays for women seeking abortions under our current New Zealand law.

This looks very much like a publicity stunt to undermine our current legislation on abortion and for abortion lobby group ALRANZ and the NZ Green Party to push for an extreme abortion law in New Zealand.

Snook’s claim that our current law is leading to long delays is based on a ‘study‘ which is little more than pro-abortion lobbying in academic drag.

The original timing of this research which was released in 2010, or at least the announcement about it, raised huge suspicions about the integrity of the research.

It was originally released just weeks after a Labour MP announced that she was putting her name to a bill that would legalise abortion on demand up to 24 weeks in NZ and then suddenly this ‘research’ appeared which claimed that it was taking too long for women to access abortion in this country?

And this research, which called for an increase in early abortions, came out around the same time that the NZ Family Planning Association (NZ FPA) was seeking official permission to start offering chemical abortions in its clinics using the RU-486 abortion drug?

There are some striking similarities between what the lead researcher on this survey, Dr Martha Silva, was calling for, and what the NZ FPA, and other pro-abortion activists like Simon Snook have been saying.

Just consider some of the following comparisons…

Auckland University research press release, July 2010:
“Although termination is a safe procedure when carried out under hygienic conditions by a trained provider, the risk for complications increases with gestational age.

Abortion Law Reform Association NZ press release, December 2009:
‘The earlier an abortion is carried out, the safer it is for the woman, [Margaret Sparrow] said.’

Women’s Health Action Trust press release (in support of NZ FPA RU-486 abortion license), March 2009:
‘…for the women who do access abortion services, greater choice of treatment options, improved accessibility including reduced waiting times and therefore earlier abortions, can greatly improve women’s experience and thus their long term health and wellbeing.’

Auckland University research press release, July 2010:
“To avoid further inequities, best practices must be identified to ensure that all clinics, regardless of whether they’re public or private, can minimise the amount of time women have to wait for a procedure.”

Women’s Health Action Trust press release, March 2009:
‘The waiting time for abortions means many are performed later than necessary.’

NZ FPA, March 2009:
“Currently, New Zealand women have inconsistent access to abortion services and in many areas, limited choice about the method of abortion they can access. Safe and accessible abortion services are an integral part of good reproductive health care. Applying for this licence is consistent with that philosophy of access and choice,” Ms Penno says.”

Now consider the title that Silva chose to give to the press release that she wrote (or at least approved) to announce her survey findings about abortion wait times:

‘Women Suffer Long Delays for Pregnancy Termination’

Just in case anybody is in doubt, this sort of emotive and leading terminology is not used by unbiased researchers engaged in objective fact finding, instead this is the sort of language used by pressure groups engaged in PR and political lobbying.

Just take a look at a couple of the other statements used in this press release…

‘New Zealand women are, on average, being forced to wait nearly a month to get a termination of pregnancy…’

‘Lead researcher, Dr Martha Silva, says efforts need to be made by clinics and referring doctors to reduce the waiting times.’

Authentic scientific research doesn’t generally involve lead researchers making such direct and strong public statements. Researchers deal in cold hard facts, not bold pronouncements about desired policy change outcomes – that’s the domain of politicians, lobbyists and advocacy groups.

It’s also a little bit surprising that academics from a major NZ university would have made such bold claims about policy changes regarding abortion when well below 50% of their survey respondents actually support the changes they have subsequently opted to publicly lobby for.

Remember, only 38% of the women surveyed stated that they felt they had waited too long and they wanted their abortion wait time to be shorter.

Another 15% said they were content with the wait time, and then there is the mystery of what the other 47% of survey respondents actually felt about this matter.

47% is no small number.

Were these 47% of other women ambivalent about the issue of their abortion wait time?

Because if that is the case, then that this means that 62% of women were either content with the current abortion wait time or did not consider it to be an important issue, and only 38% actually thought the wait time was too long.

Or was it that 47% of survey participants didn’t actually answer this part of the survey?

If this is the case, then the Auckland research has some rather large questions about their methodology to answer – if 47% of survey participants didn’t respond to a specific question about abortion wait times, then how can you then claim that 38% of women want a change in the abortion wait time?

Such a claim simply can’t be scientifically supported if 47% of your survey sample never actually voiced an opinion either way on the matter.

Another important thing to note is that, according to Radio NZ, 2950 women participated in this survey, which means that approximately only 16% of women who had abortions that year actually participated in this research, leaving the opinions of the other 84% untested.

I also can’t help but feel that there is a huge methodological flaw in asking a woman in an abortion facility whether she feels that the wait time for her abortion was too long.

Surely such women are under intense pressure, and therefore their response to that question is going to be tainted by the immense emotional pressures they are already struggling under the weight of?

Was there anything in place to control for this factor?

I am sure you can now see why I think that this ‘research’ was little more than a thinly disguised attempt to gain support for a further liberalization of NZ’s abortion laws.

What Dr Martha Silva and her team are actually lobbying for here, in practical terms, is far easier access to abortion, and for early abortions to become more common (she explicitly states these aims in her press release).

The first of these things is precisely what Steve Chadwick was proposing in 2010 in her new abortion on demand bill, and the later is what the NZ FPA were proposing with their RU-486 abortion schemes.

Which is precisely why I struggle to accept that Dr. Martha Silva and her team were merely engaged in disinterested and unbiased research.

Oh, and did I also mention that Dr Martha Silva was a guest speaker at the 5th Abortion Providers Conference in Auckland in March 2008, or that she was co-author of an article that same year which argued for an increase in the number of abortion clinics around NZ?

Maybe Silva, Sparrow and rest of their birds of a feather all think we’re so intellectually deficient that we can’t see that there has clearly been a strategic collusion of sorts gone on here as part of their ongoing attempts to liberalize NZ’s abortion laws.

Like they always say: ‘there are lies, damned lies, and statistics’.

In addition to the above, a PhD and Research Fellow in the area of medical science sent us their analysis of the research from Dr. Martha Silva at the time, this is what they had to say:

“The recent statements in the media regarding woman’s access to induced abortion procedures needs to be examined carefully. The quoted study published in the journal Reproductive Health by Martha Silva and colleagues claims that “……more than half of women at the clinics were having abortions in or after their 10th week of pregnancy, with an average wait of 25 days after seeing their referring doctor.”

Is this true overall for New Zealand though?

The authors do not declare which clinics they recruited, and note that 4 out of the 13 approached declined due to lack of time or staff. Clinics provided data from Feb 1st through to April 30th 2009. Of importance is the fact that one of declining clinics was a large specialized center. 98% of the woman had surgical abortions and over 80% of them had one or MORE previous abortions. This fact was NOT parlayed to the media.

The study reported that 45% of woman had their abortion by the end of the ninth week. So is this last piece of data reliable and extendable to New Zealand as a whole? Recourse to the most recent statistics on abortion in on New Zealand, available here at Statistics NZ, and provided to Statistics NZ by the abortion supervisory committee reveals a different story.

Firstly, are more than half of woman getting abortions in, or after, 10 weeks?

No they are not.

The reason the authors chose 10 weeks is because that is the most common time to get an abortion, by gestation. At that point, the statistics can be swung either way. For example, one could easily argue that more than half of abortions in NZ are done at 10 weeks or less, and that this has been the case for the last 20 years. In fact, for 2009, 68% of all abortions were done by 10 weeks gestation. One wonders what the contribution of the missing specialised centre is in all of this, a fact the authors conveniently ignore.

The study authors claim that 38 percent of respondents in an anonymous survey wished they had the abortion done earlier. Of course they did, no-one wants to hang around waiting for surgery. But 55% of the respondents either didn’t mind or thought the time for waiting was about right. What to believe then?

If the media and public health researchers wish to positively contribute to the debate on abortion, they can start by presenting accurate facts and asking/answering the right questions. Shoddy research that is publicly reported by an unquestioning media such as that outlined above does no-one any use at all. The public deserves the truth, not pre-conceived ideology.”

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