It’s a rare day when I get to talk to people from both England and New Zealand, but the vicissitudes of fate have conspired. An interesting story comes out of New Zealand that demonstrates the plight of Reproductive Rights over there.If you think they’re bad in America you need to check this out.
Denied Abortions in New Zealand
A New Zealand woman, “Erica”, was denied an abortion when she found out she was pregnant at 18 weeks, even though abortion is legal in New Zealand up to 20 weeks. However, getting one requires two (TWO) doctors to sign off on the procedure. This process can take up to 25 days and requires that the consulting physicians agree that the pregnancy will be detrimental to the woman’s physical or mental health.
So picture: you don’t feel so great and you take time out of your life go the doctor. That doctor tells you you’re pregnant. You then need to make AT LEAST one more appointment to maybe, hopefully, be allowed to do what you want to do with that information assuming you can say the right things to both doctors so they agree an abortion is right for you.
I think that’s pretty messed up, so to really wrap my brain around how this all works over there I asked The Satanic Temple-New Zealand’s Frankie Vegas and Arcade Abidiel (one of TST’s newest chapters, by the way) to comment on the situation.
A Chat with New Zealand Satanists
In previous conversations I’ve had with TST-NZ we’ve talked about TST’s involvement with reproductive rights here in the U.S. and how New Zealand’s laws impact the lives of women. “We want to look at the archaic abortion laws in our country.” Vegas told me in a recent correspondence. “Abortion is still technically illegal here. You can get one but the process is lengthy. There is a two week wait period while you jump through hoops, see many doctors, have scans and you can be denied, often for not saying the right phrases. We feel this is morally wrong and most certainly goes against the 3rd tenet about one’s body being inviolable, subject to one’s own will alone.”
In the case of “Erica” from the story above, she was told that if she wanted an abortion she would have to travel to Melbourne, Australia. Airfare alone for such a trip costs $600-$800 dollars , not including lodging or the procedure itself. (ed. note: that’s in U.S. dollars, current exchange rates make that ~$850-$1,100 NZD)
“The system seems to be failing women here,” says Arcade Abdiel. “It makes everything far more stressful than necessary especially for young women or those in precarious social situations.”
Fuzzy Math Politicking
There’s also a strange numbers game going on with official abortion statistics in the country that seem to suggest false data. For example anti-choice groups will publish research showing that women who seek abortions are at increased risk for mental health problems. But since mental health problems are one of the pre-requisites for obtaining the procedure in the first place I don’t see why anyone would assume that data shows a causal link. Vegas and Abdiel say many women are denied abortions simply because they don’t know the right things to say.
“I know for a fact that women know or are guided in what to say to access safe abortions because I know some of these women. I guess the ‘mental health’ thing can mean whatever they want it to mean. I assume being forced into parenthood against your will would damage anyone’s health,” remarked Vegas. The thought of being denied because you didn’t know to use the right mental health jargon is terrifying!”
“[The] really scary thing about that article was their response that the woman had no history of mental health issues on her record or raised by her GP,” added Abdiel “The law looks forward as to what carrying to term may mean to her mental health so how can the decision be based solely on her past?”
“Far too much can come down to who one sees and the information one is given. The really tragic stories of women being denied abortions tend to be when they are given false, misleading, or incomplete information regarding the law and their rights.”
While “Erica”, the young woman whose story prompted our discussion, is not a Satanist or in any way affiliated with TST Vegas and Abdiel say the chapter is supportive, and hope to make abortion reform a focus of theirs in the future.
“We wish Erica all the best with her pregnancy and child,” said Vegas.