Abortion law breaches rights of pregnant people – lobby group

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An abortion law lobby group has complained to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and says current laws breach the rights of pregnant people.

Abortion Rights Aotearoa (ALRANZ) president Terry Bellamak said pregnant people who sought abortion services were treated worse than others.

“No one else needs to seek the approval of two certifying consultants to get healthcare and no one else can be denied healthcare because their reasons for seeking it are not listed in the Crimes Act.

“No one else is forced to lie to their doctors about their mental health status if they want to receive healthcare.

“No one else is subject to arbitrary and unpredictable withholding of healthcare and only people seeking abortion referral or contraception can be refused service on the grounds of the provider’s conscience.

“What we’re asking for here is a declaration of inconsistency with the New Zealand Bill Of Rights Act. This is something that the Human Rights Tribunal can do.”

Ms Bellamak said several others who had experience with the system had joined ALRANZ in laying the complaint.

“They’ve talked about delays, long long delays – completely unnecessary from the point of view of providing medical care. Five weeks of vomiting every single day because you’re still pregnant.

“Many stories of people who had to basically lie and say my mental health will suffer if I don’t get this abortion – and knowing that this is probably not really true.

“Their experiences really illustrate the discrimination that we’re complaining of.”

She said law reform could help put an end to this discrimination.

“We’re already in a process of law reform and that’s really good and we would hope that law reform would cure this discrimination – if this is true we will withdraw the complaint – but if not we will keep fighting.”

She said ideally patients should be able to “self-refer” which would mean bypassing a visit to their doctor, but this did not mean bypassing counselling services.

“DHBs do a really good job of informed consent and most of the people I speak to are happy with the counsellors.”

“Counselling is definitely something that should be offered to everyone that wants to get an abortion and if you don’t want it you don’t have to take it… counselling only really works when it’s voluntary.”

Ms Bellamak said ALRANZ and the Ministry of Justice had been through the Commission’s mediation process, but the complaint remained unresolved.

“[The complaint] is now with the Office of Human Rights Proceedings and we’ll hear back from them whether they will represent us in front of the Tribunal.

“If they do, we won’t get in front of the Tribunal for another two years.”

A spokesperson for the HRC said complaints made to it were confidential but confirmed that abortion had been the subject of complaint made in the past.

The Ministry of Justice said it was unable to comment on matters subject to confidential mediation before the HRC and potential litigation before the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

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