In blog

Last Friday the Greens announced that they will be making the introduction of an extreme abortion in New Zealand one of their key policy planks for the upcoming general election.

Since that time there seems to have been a bit of confusion from some quarters about the fact that the Greens policy will expand the practice of aborting persons with disabilities right up to birth.

This confusion has been made worse by the fact that the wording of the Greens’ policy document on this matter is deceptive in what it claims, in that it neglects to alert readers of the actual current NZ law regarding abortion on the grounds of disability.

So, here are the facts:

Under current New Zealand abortion law, as found in the Crimes Act (Section 187A), it is illegal to abort a person with disabilities AFTER 20 weeks gestation.

Here’s the exact wording of the Crimes Act, with emphasis added (sections 183 and 186 deal with the procurement of abortion):

(1) For the purposes of sections 183 and 186, 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…

So, as you can see, the current NZ abortion law clearly states that abortion on the grounds of disability is illegal AFTER 20 weeks gestation.

But the Greens want to expand this, and they explicitly state, in their new policy, that aborting persons with disability after 20 weeks will become legal under their new extreme abortion law.

Here’s the specific wording of the Greens’ policy document, with emphasis added:

“2. To support the freedom to have an abortion the Green Party will:

a. Decriminalise abortion by removing it from the Crimes Act.

b. Allow terminations after 20 weeks gestation only when the woman would otherwise face serious permanent injury to her health, or in the case of severe fetal abnormalities (as is current practice).”

As you can clearly see, the Greens explicitly state that they will be changing the current law, to make it legal to end the lives of persons with disabilities AFTER 20 weeks gestation.

Because they have placed no upper gestational limit on this practice in their policy wording, it is almost certain that this means that the Greens will allow the aborting of persons with disabilities right up to birth (notice how they have included the disability clause with the clause about risk to the health of the mother – which would obviously not have an upper gestational limit).

Confusion regarding this matter has arisen because the Greens policy dishonestly refers to the aborting of persons with disabilities after 20 weeks as “current practice”.

This may well be the case, but it is definitely not legal, so anyone who currently aborts a child after 20 weeks on the grounds of disability is breaking the law.

Why have the Greens included such a misleading statement in their policy wording?

Is it based on an ignorance about current NZ abortion laws? If so, then what else have they mislead the general public about in this policy?

Or is it because they know that this is an extreme abortion policy and so, by deliberately misleading the NZ population about key aspects of the policy, they are hoping to soften the public perception of what is really going on here? If so, then, once again, it must be asked: what else are they misleading the public about in this policy?

What makes this legal expansion of the practice of aborting persons with disability, purely because they are persons with disability, so unbelievable is the fact that it is being proposed by the very same party that claimsto be committed to: “removing the barriers that prevent people with impairments participating fully in society.”

The hypocrisy on display here is as grave as it is astounding.

So, next time someone tries to tell you that the new extreme abortion law being proposed by the Greens does not expand the practice of aborting persons with disabilities much later than already available, you can tell them that they are definitely mistaken, as it most certainly does.

Perhaps you might also want to ask them why a party that is supposedly so strongly committed to disability rights would even be proposing such a thing in the first place?

*** UPDATE: An important additional comment from Mike Sullivan, director of advocacy group Saving Downs: ***

“I would add that the term “serious fetal abnormality” in the Green’s policy is widely interpreted in law and practice to include disabilities such as Down syndrome and Spinda Bifida. So the policy clearly provides for disability selective abortions beyond 20 weeks, and provides a lower level of legal protection before birth based on a prohibited ground of discrimination. The UN committee responsible for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has already ruled that such policies breach disability rights and the CRPD.”

Cross-posted from Brendan Malone at the Leading Edge Blog.

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