Well, with the news that Steve Chadwick is wanting to make abortions more accesible and reform the 30 year old law on the matter the pro-life groups are going to be coming out of the woodwork like Thunderbird 5 from a tropical island. Coming from the UK where abortion was never discussed in the political sphere (although i think that has changed in recent years) this is something a little refreshing. NZ with its massivelly high rates of abortion really needs a reasoned and empassioned public debate on the issue. The problem is that when the pro-life groups come out we often get only passion and not reason, heat and not light.
The truth is, as much as I believe in the sanctity of life and would do anything to support a friend or relative in the decision to bring to term rather than terminate a baby, I have to shout, the formula abortion = murder is just plain unhelpful. Abortion is a fact of life, and whenever and wherever it has been criminalised, that has merely driven it underground, desperate women have always sought to terminate babies and they will do so by any means, safe if available, unsafe if not. There is no way we should ever advocate for a return to a world where the backstreet abortion is the only option for a woman who decides to end a pregnancy.
Magret Sparrows' declaration that, "abortion is a medical matter, not a crime," is equally unhelpful. Medicine is not a stand alone arbiter of right and wrong, medicine must be governed by ethics. Abortion is an ethical matter, and like crime and child abuse statistics merely focussing the attention on the act totally loses sight of the real issue, that is the causes and contributors to that act. Focusing attention on the act only gives people a chance to condemn or feel condemned. There is enough guilt associated with abortion without any outside help being required. By the same token, removing any element of morality or conscience from such an action dehumanises the women involved and suggests that they are nothing more than a lump of animated meat and all that matters is their continuing biological functioning.
The real question is, why nearly 18,000 abortions are needed or felt to be needed in NZ every year and what do we as a society need to do in order to reduce the number of women who find themselves in a situation where this appears to be their only option?
Let me know what you think.
[Update: some further cogent reflections from Dita de Boni who argues for why the law needs changing and discussing the likely reasons for late term abortions.]