Press release – ASA throw out attempt to shut down criticism of NZ Govt’s plan to introduce abortion up to birth for Down syndrome

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ASA throw out attempt to shut down criticism of NZ Govt’s plan to introduce abortion up to birth for Down syndrome

The New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has thrown out a complaint against Right To Life UK.

The complaint appears to have been made by Young Labour’s Senior Executive Secretary and Labour Party youth camp organiser Tess Macintyre.

In September 2019, Right To Life UK ran a news article on its website covering opposition from parents of children with Down’s syndrome to proposed changes to New Zealand abortion legislation that also outlined how the proposed law change would introduce abortion up to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome. This article was also posted on the organisation’s Facebook page.

The complainant, T Macintyre, claimed that the Facebook post presented  “a false claim that the Prime Minister of New Zealand is attempting to legalise abortion up to birth for foetuses with Down syndrome.” 

The Advertising Standards Authority has now thrown out the complaint. 

In their decision, the ASA ruled that the Facebook post was not misleading with the Chair commenting: “taking into account the context, medium and likely audience, the advocacy advertisement did not breach Principle 2 or Rule 2(b) of the Advertising Standards Code.”

Principle 2 of the Advertising Standards Code outlines that, “Advertisements must be truthful, balanced and not misleading.” Rule 2 outlines that, “Advertisements must not mislead or be likely to mislead, deceive or confuse consumers, abuse their trust or exploit their lack of knowledge.”

The Chair also said that “political advertisements were not only acceptable but encouraged, as they are an essential and desirable part of the functioning of a democratic society” and that “in a free and democratic society, differences of political opinion should be openly debated without undue hindrance or interference from authorities.”

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“The NZ Labour Party needs to stand up and justify why they want to legalise abortion for babies with disabilities including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome right through to birth. They need to stop trying to shut down debate on this important issue. 

The article we published was completely factual and provided an accurate outline of the proposed changes to abortion law in New Zealand in relation to disability-selective abortions. All references to the proposed legal changes were checked and the final article was signed-off by our policy team before it was published.

Currently, there is a 20-week time limit for disability-selective abortions in New Zealand law. The proposed legislation will see this time limit removed and abortion will be available up until birth, with the approval of a single registered health practitioner. 

In the jurisdictions that have a similar clause, this has in practice allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome right up to birth. In fact, there have been over 1,600 late-term abortions of babies with a disability under a similar abortion up-to-birth clause in Victoria, Australia, since the law was changed in 2008. This has been under a stricter law in Victoria where a higher threshold of two doctors is required to approve a late-term abortion.

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, made a clear promise to the disability community to not remove the current 20-week time limit for disability-selective abortions. She has broken this promise. Her party supporters should not resort to attempting to shut down anyone who attempts to highlight this broken promise and the impact it will have on the community of people with Down syndrome in New Zealand.

We are glad to see that the Advertising Standards Authority have thrown out this complaint. They have not only ruled that our article was not misleading but have gone on to say that in a free and democratic society, differences of political opinion should be openly debated without undue hindrance or interference from authorities. We totally agree with that statement.”

ENDS

Background on the proposed change to abortion law

  • In New Zealand, under section 187A of the Crimes Act, there is currently a gestational time limit of 20-weeks for disability-selective abortions. 
  • Under the proposed legislation (Abortion Legislation Bill), the 20-week gestational time limit for disability-selective abortions will be removed. Abortions will be available right through to birth, providing one registered health practitioner “reasonably believes that the abortion is appropriate in the circumstances” outlined in part one, clause seven of the bill
  • In the jurisdictions that have a similar clause allowing for abortion up to birth, this has in practice allowed for disability-selective abortions, for conditions including Down syndrome, right through to birth.
  • In fact, the proposed New Zealand legislation only requires one registered health practitioner to decide that the abortion meets these grounds. This could include a single nurse signing off on an abortion, rather than the higher threshold of two doctors, which is the case in Victoria, Australia which has a similar abortion up to birth clause. There have been over 1,600 abortions of babies with a disability under a similar abortion up to birth clause in Victoria, Australia, since the law was changed in 2008.
  • In 2017, disability campaigners highlighted their concerns around Jacinda Ardern’s pledge to change abortion laws, outlining that this would introduce abortion through to birth for unborn babies with disabilities. 
  • In response, Jacinda Ardern made a commitment to not increase the time limit for disability-selective abortion. In response to the concern raised by the campaigners, Jacinda Ardern said: “They have said till 40 weeks, which is wrong, which is wrong. We have time periods already set out in law, I’m not proposing changes to that. I’m proposing it comes out of the Crimes Act.”
  • Jacinda Ardern and her Government now appear to have broken that promise.
  • Already the majority of babies in New Zealand diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. If this proposed policy became law it could put New Zealand on the path towards the situation in Iceland where close to 100% of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.

Press release – LibDem MP candidate who opposed sex-selective abortion deselected for wrong ‘values’

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LibDem MP candidate who opposed sex-selective abortion deselected for wrong ‘values’

Right To Life UK are calling on the Liberal Democrats to declare whether there is a place for candidates who oppose sex-selective abortion in their party, following former Stoke-on-Trent South MP, Rob Fello, being deselected as a candidate for having the wrong ‘values’. 

During his 12-years as MP, Rob Flello voted on three bills or amendments relating to abortion. Polling shows his positions on each of these issues are supported by the vast majority of women.

  • September 2011 – Supported a bill to give woman considering abortion a legal right to independent counselling from a source that has no financial interest in her decision.
  • February 2015 – Supported an amendment to ban sex-selective abortion.
  • March 2017 – Opposed a bill to introduce abortion on demand, for any reason, up to birth to the UK.
    • Polling shows only 1% support of the population support introducing abortion up to birth.

Rob Flello also opposed the introduction of assisted suicide to the UK. In 2015, 330 MPs joined Rob Flello in opposing a Bill to introduce assisted suicide, many of whom were Liberal Democrat MPs. Only 118 MPs supported that Bill which was voted down at second reading.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“We are now calling on the Liberal Democrats to declare whether there is a place for candidates who oppose sex-selective abortion and abortion up to birth in their party? How many LibDem MPs who voted with Rob Flello to oppose abortion up to birth and ban sex-selective abortion will be deselected for their wrong ‘values? These are not fringe viewpoints. These are views that polling shows the vast majority of the public and the vast majority of Liberal Democrat voters hold. 

ENDS

ComRes interviewed 2,008 British adults online between 12th and 14th May 2017. Data was weighted to be representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are here: https://www.comresglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Where-Do-They-Stand-Abortion-Survey-Data-Tables.pdf

Press release – Government announces proposed extreme abortion framework for NI, goes far beyond law in Eng/Wales

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Government announces proposed extreme abortion framework for Northern Ireland, goes far beyond law in England and Wales

The Government has today launched a consultation on a proposed abortion framework for Northern Ireland which goes far beyond the existing law in England and Wales, and that of the Republic of Ireland.

The proposals go far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. The proposal seeks to introduce an abortion framework without many of the current legal safeguards provided by the Abortion Act in England and Wales. 

The proposed framework which is being consulted on includes the following:

  • De facto abortion on demand through to either 22 or 24 weeks (Section 2.2 – page 15)
    • Abortion would be available ‘provided grounds similar to those in England and Wales are met in relation to mental wellbeing grounds’.
    • In England and Wales, this wording has in practice allowed for de facto abortion on demand.
  • Any “registered healthcare professional” would be able to provide terminations (Section 2.5 – page 20)
    • In England and Wales, abortions can only be performed by a registered medical practitioner (doctor) and the Abortion Act requires the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.
    • Under the proposal being consulted on, there is no requirement that a doctor performs the abortion and no requirement for the approval of two doctors before an abortion can be performed.
    • ‘Any other registered healthcare professional’ could include healthcare assistants, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, health visitors, dieticians, art therapists and hearing aid dispensers.
  • No legal restrictions on locations where abortions can take place (Section 2.6 – page 21)
    • In England and Wales, the Abortion Act (1967) currently restricts abortion to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State. This means that abortions are available in a limited number of approved locations.
    • Under the proposal being consulted on, abortion locations would not be limited in law to hospitals or places approved by the Secretary of State and it would be left to Northern Ireland Commissioners to decide where abortions could take place.
    • This could open up abortion locations to the home use of both abortion pills, pharmacies, GPs surgeries, school nurse clinics, mobile abortion clinics and ‘telemed’ abortions.
  • Abortion for disabilities for any reason up to birth, possibly including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot (Section 2.3 – page 17)
    • Abortion for disabilities available through to birth when “The fetus if born would suffer a severe impairment, including a mental or physical disability which is likely to significantly limit either the length or quality of the child’s life” 
    • In England and Wales, wording that has appeared similarly restrictive  (‘that there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’) has in practice allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome, cleft lip and club foot.  
  • Sex-selective abortion on demand through to 12 or 14 weeks (Section 2.2 – page 13)
    • Abortion on demand, without certification, through to 12 or 14 weeks would allow for sex-selective abortion to be available on-demand. 
    • There is also no specific provision banning sex-selective abortion through 22 or 24 weeks.
  • Conscientious objection protections are provided but would operate in a very different environment (Section 2.8 – page 26)
    • The proposal appears to seek to mirror legislation in England and Wales which does not provide protection for healthcare professionals undertaking ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks involved with an abortion procedure.
    • The proposed framework allows for a far wider group of health professionals beyond doctors to be involved with providing terminations in a far wider number of locations. This could mean that a far wider group of health professionals could be affected by the legislation and possibly involved in ancillary, administrative and managerial tasks where they are not provided protection.

The introduction of the new framework is proposed to take place on March 31st 2020. This will follow the current ‘limbo period’ in Northern Ireland, following the change in the law on October 22, where there is now no law protecting the unborn child through to 28-weeks. During this ‘limbo period’, there is only limited guidance from the Government, recommending how abortion access should be provided during this period.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“The Government’s proposed abortion framework goes far beyond what the Government was required to do by the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019. 

The proposed framework drops many of the current legal safeguards provided by the Abortion Act in England and Wales. The proposals open up abortion provision to any healthcare professional, which could include pharmacists, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, art therapists and dieticians. It also drops the requirement that two doctors sign off on an abortion.

The proposal includes virtually no legal limit on the locations on where abortions can take place, potentially allowing for the home use of both abortion pills along with abortion provision in pharmacies, GPs surgeries, school nurse clinics, mobile abortion clinics and ‘telemed’ abortions.

In practice, abortion on demand would be available to either 22 or 24 weeks under mental health grounds. Abortion without certification would be available to either 12 or 14 weeks. This would allow sex-selective abortions to be available on-demand through this period with no specific provision banning sex-selective abortion through 22/24 weeks. 

The proposal would also see abortion for disabilities, including cleft lip, club foot and Down’s syndrome introduced to Northern Ireland, and possibly available right through to birth.

100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because Northern Ireland did not accept the same abortion law that was introduced into Britain in 1967. This proposed abortion framework is a blatant attempt by the Government to further undermine the will of the people of Northern Ireland. It adds insult to injury after Westminster voted to impose new abortion laws on Northern Ireland and would likely lead to an even larger increase in the number of lives lost to abortion.”

ENDS

  • For additional quotes and media interviews contact 07907 272151 or email press@righttolife.org.uk 
  • For further information on Right To Life UK visit www.righttolife.org.uk
  • The full consultation document is available here.
  • The full report on the 100,000 lives figure quoted above is available here: https://bothlivesmatter.org/statistics   
  • Polling from ComRes shows that 66% of women and 70% of 18-34-year-olds in Northern Ireland rejected abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland from Westminster. The strongest support among age groups surveyed came from 18-34-year-olds, with 70% agreeing that they did not want abortion law imposed on Northern Ireland.
  • ComRes interviewed 1,013 Northern Irish adults online between 8th and 15th October 2018. Data was weighted to be representative of all Northern Irish adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available here: https://www.comresglobal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-Both-Lives-Matter.pdf

Press comment – Increased survival rate for premature babies born prompts calls to review current law

The survival rate for extremely premature babies has doubled over the past decade, prompting new guidance allowing doctors to try to save babies born as early as 22 weeks into a pregnancy.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said:

This is something that Parliament should urgently revisit. It has been over a decade since time limits were last debated fully in Parliament, in 2008. 

There is a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive before 24 weeks whilst in another room a doctor could perform an abortion which would end the life of a baby at the same age. Surely this contradiction needs to end?

Independent polling from ComRes shows that 70% of women in the UK want to see the time limit for abortion reduced to 20 weeks or below. Our current abortion time limit is way out of line with the rest of Europe where the most common abortion time limit is 12 weeks.

This change in guidance adds further evidence to the need for Parliament to urgently review our current abortion time limit. We support any change in law that would help lower abortion numbers and save the lives of babies in the womb. 

It’s time that our laws were brought into line with public opinion, modern science and the rest of Europe.

ENDS

  • For additional quotes and media interviews contact 07847 454108 or email press@righttolife.org.uk