Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 1. 6th March 1974
Should abortion remain illegal? Is it right that laws which restrict abortion to only those women who may die in childbirth remain in the Crimes Act? These are the questions that more and more New Zealanders arc asking themselves as the abortion debate becomes more heated. It is expensive and difficult to get legal abortions in this country because of the restrictive laws. It is often said that there is one law for the rich and one law for the poor on this issue. Those with money can afford psychiatrists fees or overseas trips but those without money invariably see their unwanted pregnancy through because there are no alternatives.
Many can see the contradictions which arise from the laws. These laws are, in thousands of cases, being bypassed and are therefore outdated. Recent surveys show that although many women are successful in obtaining abortions many more are not. It depends entirely on the woman's circumstances. This is obviously unfair and results in tragic situations involving suicide and attempts at self-induced abortion.
Many groups are challenging the Government to legalise abortion by protesting against the unjust laws. Two ways pressure is being applied right now are through the submissions to the Select Committee on Women's Rights and the setting up of a clinic in Auckland to perform legal abortions. As the year progresses this pressure will broaden and increase.
When the Government does concede to recognise the situation we must ensure that the recommendations are in the interests of all women, not just the educated and privileged. To ensure this a public majority must be in favour of the decision resting with the individual woman. She is the person most directly affected by the pregnancy and should therefore be given the right to make a personal decision and the means to effect that decision; whether it be for abortion or bringing the pregnancy to term. This means, in effect, that the abortion laws must be repealed.
As part of the campaign to repeal the abortion laws the Wellington Women's Abortion Action Committee has invited Dr Margaret Sparrow to give her views on the issue and to explain the medical aspects of abortion. Dr Sparrow practices at the Student Health Service and the Family Planning Association. She is the authoritative speaker on questions such as the dangers of legal abortion in comparison to the dangers of bringing a pregnancy to term, what methods are used to induce an abortion and the availability of safe, legal abortions in this country. The meeting will be held in the Lounge and Smoking Room of the Student Union Building, Thursday March 7, 8pm and everyone is welcome.
The W.A.A.C. is concerned that this issue, vital to thousands of women, is being avoided as far as possible by the media and by the politicians. In an effort to break this attitude the Committee will be organising a number of discussions and demonstrations this year. When the media is unwilling to publish facts, few statistics are available and neither political party is prepared to mention the word "abortion", a group like W.A.A.C. become essential to rouse public awareness and to confront the politicians. The public meeting mentioned above has been organised with this aim.
Since its foundation in 1972, the Committee has used the slogans Repeal the Abortion Laws, Free and Freely Available Contraception, Voluntary Sterilisation and supports a more realistic sex education programme in schools. Repeal of the laws restricting abortion is viewed as the only solution enabling every woman the right to make a personal decision between termination of a pregnancy and bringing a pregnancy to term. Obviously every unplanned pregnancy is not unwanted but the woman concerned should be free to make this important distinction.
There will always be a demand for unwanted pregnancies to be terminated until contraception, sterilisation and sex education standards are raised one hundred percent. These closely related aspects of reproductive control cannot be raised to the required standard overnight and even if they were the inevitable factor of "human error" will never disappear. So although the Committee is campaigning for women to be in total control of their reproductive lives, the question of abortion is the most immediate.
W.A.A.C.'s are established in all the main centres, including Dunedin, and are co-ordinated by a representative national body, WONAAC. National activities last year included public forums on International Women's Day, a mid-year conference and a demonstration on Women's Suffrage Day. On an international level WONAAC protested the imprisonment of a Canadian doctor for performing abortions in his clinic. A submission has been prepared to present to the parliamentary Select Committee on Women's Rights later this month.
Locally the Committees organise educational forums and public protests whenever possible. This year we hope to be even more active than last year. For further information on the campaign come along to the forum on March 7 and subscribe to the national newsletter by sending $1 to Box 2669, Wellington.
—Jacqueline McCluggage (Co-ordinator Wgtn W.A.A.C.)