(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, July 20.)
IT WENT unnoticed by the media, but Justice Minister Simon Power recently issued a press statement announcing that Dr Rosemary Fenwicke had decided not to seek re-appointment to the Abortion Supervisory Committee.
There’s a story behind this. Dr Fenwicke, a member of the three-person committee since 2007, is an abortion certifying consultant who earns fees by approving the termination of pregnancies. She is also a former medical director of the Family Planning Association, a major abortion referral agency. She was nominated for the committee by the Labour government of Helen Clark, whose pro-abortion sympathies are well known.
The appointment seemed not only an unconscionable conflict of interest, but a calculated insult to the many New Zealanders who regard abortion as deeply repugnant. Were they really expected to believe the government couldn’t find someone suitably qualified who didn’t have a material stake in the abortion business? (Certifying consultants were paid $5 million in 2008, and even pro-abortionists acknowledge it’s a lucrative business.)
The very nature of her professional activity suggested Dr Fenwicke was anything but neutral on this divisive issue, yet Parliament rejected an attempt by then MP Gordon Copeland, a staunch opponent of abortion, to overturn her nomination. (It was supposedly a conscience vote but Labour MPs were instructed to support Dr Fenwicke, meaning her appointment was assured.)
The issue didn’t excite much interest at the time. Even MPs with misgivings about abortion have little stomach for debates about it and probably wanted to get the matter out of the way with as little fuss as possible. Besides, they don’t want to be reminded that the administration of the abortion law is a travesty – a point I believe was borne out in a High Court judgement by Justice Forrest Miller in 2008.
New Zealand effectively has an abortion-on-request regime, something Parliament never intended when it passed the Sterilisation, Contraception and Abortion Act in 1977. The abortion supervisory committee’s annual reports show that more than 98 percent of abortions are approved by people like Dr Fenwicke on the spurious basis that the mother’s mental health is at risk.
That Dr Fenwicke should have been appointed to the committee charged with ensuring the Act is upheld demonstrated what a grotesque sham the administration of the abortion law has become.
Fortunately, anti-abortionists refused to let the matter rest. They lobbied against the renewal of Dr Fenwicke’s appointment and the government appears to have recognised the force of their argument.
Mr Power’s statement that Dr Fenwicke had decided not to seek re-appointment is usually a coded way of saying she was told it was not in the government’s interests for her to continue. Whether this indicates a change of the political mood on abortion, or is simply an acknowledgment that Dr Fenwicke should never have been appointed in the first place, isn’t clear.
Either way, although her resignation is a morale booster for the anti-abortion lobby, it does nothing to resolve the bigger issue: namely, the fact that the C, S and A Act is being brazenly flouted. Regardless of personal views on abortion, no one who values respect for the law and the integrity of government processes can be happy with this continuing charade.
IN THE meantime, the abortionists remain busy. Statistics New Zealand says 17,550 foetuses were aborted last year. That’s an awful lot of mentally unstable women.
For 37 percent of those women it was not their first abortion. More than 4000 women were having their second, 1364 were having their third and 19 had had seven abortions or more. Haven’t they heard of contraception?
Yet nearly 18,000 abortions are apparently not enough for Labour list MP Steve Chadwick, who wants abortion to be made a matter for the mother to decide – no one else. This would remove even the flimsy figleaf of legal constraints imposed under the present law, which requires (though no one takes any notice) that consideration be given to the rights of the unborn child.
What’s more, Ms Chadwick is canvassing support for a change that would allow abortions up to 24 weeks – that’s six months into the pregnancy, a point at which babies are capable, with intensive medical care, of surviving outside the womb. Under existing law the limit is 20 weeks, though exceptions can be allowed if the mother’s life is at risk or there is a danger of serous permanent injury.
This part of her proposed Abortion Reform Bill is making even pro-abortionists nervous because, as pro-choice columnist Dita de Boni has written, it will stir up passions associated with late-term abortion.
I regard Ms Chadwick’s proposal as monstrous. She appears to be one of the last standard-bearers for an extreme brand of 1970s feminism that places ideology over humanity.
I can’t imagine Labour leader Phil Goff – or any of Ms Chadwick’s parliamentary colleagues, for that matter – will thank her for putting this unexploded bomb on the political agenda. Yet there is unfinished business here that needs to be dealt with. Looking the other way, as the politicians have done for the past 33 years, isn’t good enough.
Footnote: The Dominion Post subsequently published a piece by Rosemary Fenwicke responding to my column. I can’t find it on Stuff but it can be read here: