NZ PM Jacinda Ardern’s Bill to introduce abortion up to birth for children with Down’s syndrome – Parents speak out

Parents of children with Down’s syndrome, as well as leading Down’s syndrome advocacy groups, have spoken out against the New Zealand Government’s abortion Bill which will permit abortion up to birth for babies prenatally diagnosed with the condition. The Bill has been introduced following a pledge before the last election from the country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to make widespread changes to abortion law.

On the final day (19/09) for public submissions on the New Zealand Abortion Legislation Bill, a number of parents have publicly voiced their concerns about the harmful impact this Bill will have on people with Down’s syndrome.

The new abortion Bill

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 for babies prenatally diagnosed with Down’s syndrome will be available up until birth, with the approval of a single doctor. 

In 2017, Saving Down Syndrome highlighted their concern that in her pledge to change the abortion laws, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, would end up introducing abortion up to birth for babies with disabilities. In response, Jacinda Ardern made a commitment to not increase the time limit for disability-selective abortion.

Saving Down Syndrome, in their submission on the Abortion Legislation Bill, highlighted that Jacinda Ardern had broken that promise. Hundreds of people with Down’s syndrome and their families have signed an open letter calling on Jacinda Ardern to not break her promise.

In their submission, Saving Down Syndrome highlighted that the relevant clause in the proposed New Zealand legislation, only requires one registered health practitioner, which could include a single nurse. By contrast, in Victoria, Australia – which has a similar law – there is a higher threshold requiring two doctors two approve a late term abortion.

In the handful of jurisdictions that have a similar clause, in practice this has allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down’s syndrome right up to birth. In fact, there have been over 1,600 abortions of babies with a disability in Victoria, Australia, since the law was changed in 2008.

Pressure to abort

Many parents recounted the pressure they were put under by health workers to either undergo prenatal genetic testing for Down’s Syndrome (with the assumption that the mother would then choose an abortion) or to have an abortion if genetic tests suggested their child had an Down’s Syndrome.

Aggie Brown, whose adopted son Reuben has Down’s Syndrome, said his birth mother was put under constant pressure to have an abortion once her child was prenatally diagnosed with having Down’s Syndrome.

“Unfortunately her GP was strongly asking her to consider having an abortion and was actually giving the birth mum all the worst scenario if she decided to keep the baby,” she said.

“The birth mum actually dreaded to go to her health visits because it was always brought up by the GP and we actually applaud the birth mum for sticking to her guns.”

Rachel Price, a New Zealand mother who has a daughter, Eden, with Down’s Syndrome, recounted a very similar experience during a subsequent pregnancy. Even when Rachel said that she did not want genetic testing on multiple occasions, the clinic she attended made an appointment for her anyway, which she told them to cancel.

“We were under immense pressure to go and have genetic counselling,” she said.

“But why? If we have another child with Down’s Syndrome we are quite OK with that and we will carry on with the pregnancy.”

The representative for the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association, Diane Burnett also has a daughter, Jada, who has Down’s Syndrome, and she said the social and medical pressure was intense when she wanted to opt out of the prenatal screening process.

The women said the developments in prenatal screening aimed at detecting disabilities has led to an assumption that women will want an abortion if they find out their baby might have Down’s Syndrome.

They were concerned that New Zealand could edge closer to what has happened in countries such as Iceland, which has an almost 100% abortion rate for unborn babies prenatally diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome.

One parent, whose son has Down’s syndrome, went so far as to say routine abortion of babies diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome was a form of eugenics.

“I think New Zealand can do better than Iceland. I feel really saddened to hear that Iceland abort 99 percent of people that have Down’s Syndrome,” she said.

“To me that seems like a eugenics programme, and that’s just madness.”

What’s it actually like to have a child with Down’s Syndrome?

In addition to the pressures they felt in regard to abortion, all the parents were eager to let others know how happy their children with Down’s Syndrome were, and the one-sided nature of the discussion which rarely shows this.

Diane Burnett of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association said women are just not given the full picture when they find out. “They are given very medical and clinical information,” she said.

“Figures on heart conditions and health conditions and hearing loss and eyesight problems, and people with Down’s Syndrome are not the only people who have those issues.”

“They’re not getting what it is actually like to have a child with Down’s Syndrome.”

Aggie Brown whose adopted son had Downs’ Syndrome said “Most people know that with Down’s Syndrome they carry the happy gene, they are always smiling,” she said.

“They do have their moments, they are strong-willed, but overall, for Reuben, it’s very rare that he’s cranky. He’s always a happy-go-lucky child and we are very fortunate.”

NZ PM’s popularity plummets as she supports abortion up to birth

The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, with her daughter

New polling has revealed that the popularity of New Zealand’s Prime Minister has plummeted at the same time as the Government she leads has brought forward a bill which seeks to introduce one of the most extreme abortion policies in the world.

Jacinda Ardern’s prime ministerial polling dropped two times in the last two Colmar Brunton/One News Surveys, from 51% in April – shortly after New Zealand’s terrorist attack – to 41% last month.

Some commentators have suggested her polling has dropped as much as 16% according to her own party’s internal polling.

When asked whether she was concerned about this drop in her popularity, Arden said:

“When it comes to the personal ratings what I equally accept is that when you are in Government and taking on big challenges and difficult conversations and hard debates there are going to be people who disagree with you,” Ardern said.

“We are not going to make progress on some of these big difficult issues unless we are willing to confront hard conversations.

“If you simply govern just to maintain popularity it probably means you are not taking some of those big issues on.”

One of those ‘big difficult issues’ that Arden has taken a clear position on is New Zealand’s extreme abortion legislation currently passing through the New Zealand Parliament.

The Abortion Legislation Bill, which passed its first reading earlier this month, will make abortion legal up until birth with the approval of a single nurse or doctor, which could be the abortion doctor or nurse performing the abortion, and has the Prime Minster of New Zealand’s full support.

New Zealand Justice Minister, Andrew Little, admitting abortion with the consent of a single health professional will be available up to birth.

Arden’s drop in popularity is consistent with other countries where leaders have supported extreme abortion legislation. Thousands of pro-lifers protested outside of New South Wales Parliament House, and almost 100,000 people signed a petition asking the Legislative Council in New South Wales to reject the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill 2019.

After the surprise victory of the Liberal Party in Australia in June, the Labor Party’s radical abortion pledges were identified as a possible reason the party did not win the election. In the run up to the election, the party had pledged state funding for late-term abortions, which, in some states, would have meant funding abortions up to birth.

Spokesperson For Right To Life UK Catherine Robinson said:

“It is no surprise Jacinda Arden is losing popularity over this issue. Extreme abortion legislation is not a vote winning position. Only abortion ideologues want abortion up until birth. Everyone else can recognise the extreme barbarity of laws which permit abortion at 9 months gestation.”

Former NZ politician admits sending pro-life emails to “junk folder”

Former New Zealand MP, Kevin Hague, admits that he diverted pro-life emails “to a junk folder.”

As the New Zealand Parliament is currently debating whether or not to legalise abortion up until birth on the say so of a single health practitioner, the former Green Party MP made the startling admission that the emails of concerned pro-life citizens in New Zealand are simply dismissed.

As pro-lifers engaged in the democratic process by contacting their MP urging them to oppose the extreme abortion legislation, Labour MP Deborah Russell tweeted an image from her email account showing multiple emails all concerned about the proposed new abortion law.

She said “My inbox right now. Sigh.”

In a reply to her tweet the former Green party MP, Kevin Hague said:

“My strategy was just to treat them as you would trolls elsewhere online – set up a rule that just diverts them all to a junk folder. My EA also weeded out the hate mail that didn’t get caught by the filter and only showed me selected highlights. Worth it for your mental health!”

The Abortion Legislation Bill permits abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy if a single health practitioner considers it appropriate with regard to “woman’s physical health, mental health, and well-being…

The tweets were posted shortly before the extreme abortion Bill passed it’s first reading in the New Zealand Parliament.

Spokesperson for Right To Life UK, Catherine Robinson said:

“Even if you are not pro-life the contempt that these MPs, especially former Green Party MP, Mr Hague, have shown for the electorate and the democratic process more generally, is nothing short of astounding.”

“On the other hand, this does show the effectiveness of pro-lifers lobbying their MPs. Despite these politicians, the message is getting through: ‘New Zealand does not want or need this extreme abortion legislation. We do not want abortion up to birth. Vote against this legislation.”

NZ Parliament to debate extreme abortion Bill that will allow for abortion up to birth for any reason

(New Zealand Justice Minister, Andrew Little, answering questions on the abortion Bill)

The New Zealand Parliament is set to debate a new abortion Bill which would permit abortion up to the birth of the baby.

The Abortion Legislation Bill, set to be brought before the New Zealand Parliament this Thursday (08/08), will make abortion legal up until birth with the approval of a single nurse or doctor, which could be the abortion doctor or nurse performing the abortion.

The Bill includes proposed amendments to New Zealand’s current Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act (1977). A new clause added to the legislation statesthat a qualified health practitioner may provide abortion services to a woman who is more than 20 weeks pregnant, but this is conditional on the health practitioner reasonably believing that an abortion is appropriate in the circumstances.”

The health practitioner must have regard to the woman’s physical health, mental health, and well-being when considering whether an abortion is appropriate.

“Well-being” is left undefined in the legislation, meaning, in effect, that abortion would be available throughout all nine months of pregnancy if a single doctor or nurse agrees to it.

The pro-life group, Voice For Life New Zealand, has described this criteria for late-term abortion, which is left up to the discretion of a doctor on the basis of a woman’s mental and physical health, as “extremely loose and arbitrary.”

If this legislation were to pass, New Zealand would have the most extreme abortion law in the world, essentially permitting abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy if a doctor or nurse considered it appropriate.

New Zealand Justice Minister, Andrew Little, admitting abortion with the consent of a single doctor will be available up to birth.

There is currently a provision in Victoria, Australia, that allows for abortion between 24 weeks and birth if two doctors agree that the termination is appropriate given the woman’s current and future ‘physical, psychological and social circumstances’.

This is a more specific provision than the ‘well-being’ provision in the proposed New Zealand legislation and requires a higher threshold of two doctors rather than a single nurse or doctor to agree the abortion is allowed under the legislation. As extreme as the legislation in Victoria is, New Zealand’s could be even worse.

Abortion advocates were effective in ensuring the legislation in Victoria did not require full collection of statistics for late-term abortions, making it more difficult to determine the impact that allowing for abortion up-to-birth has had on late-term abortion numbers. 

There is limited data collection in hospitals provided in reports from The Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity

This data shows that in 2011 there were 195 abortions performed on babies with a ‘suspected or confirmed’ disability after 20 weeks. There were a further 191 performed for ‘psychosocial’ reasons after 20-weeks, and this even included a termination for ‘psychosocial’ reasons after 37 weeks!

This has occurred under a stricter ‘abortion up-to-birth’ provision in Victoria. It is likely that the situation would be far worse in New Zealand under the even looser worded proposed ‘abortion up to birth’ provision there.

It is clear that if this Bill passes, New Zealand will have the most extreme abortion law in the world.

Catherine Robinson from Right To Life UK said:

“We should not be desensitised to the severity of what is being proposed in New Zealand. Children are born at 22 weeks in developed countries and go on to thrive. Abortion at this late stage, and even up until birth, whether in New Zealand or in any other country, is especially barbaric.”

“New Zealand’s Labour party, are attempting to redefine abortion as a health issue. But excluding those rare cases where a mother’s life is genuinely in danger, where the premature removal of her baby is already permitted, abortion manifestly is not a health issue. Being pregnant is not an illness, and it is deeply Orwellian to pretend it is.”