New Zealand abortion committee criticized for concealing identity of appointees


Despite requests made under a freedom of information law, the New Zealand Ministry of Justice has refused to provide the names and qualifications of persons appointed by the Abortion Supervisory Committee to a new advisory committee.

New Zealand Right to Life has called the refusal a “serious threat” to civil liberties and to the public’s right to know about government actions, charging the committee with ignoring a court ruling doubting the lawfulness of many abortions in the country.

The advisory members of the Standards Committee, who are paid with taxpayer monies, develop standards for the provision of abortion services in New Zealand. Standards set by the committee could influence the lawfulness of abortion and the health and welfare of vulnerable women and the lives of unborn children, New Zealand Right to Life said in a Thursday media release.

New Zealand Right to Life charged the Abortion Supervisory Committee with deliberately ignoring a High Court judgment of June 9 which stated “there is reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions authorized by certifying consultants. Indeed, the Committee itself has stated that the law is being used more liberally than Parliament intended.”

Ken Orr, a spokesman with Right to Life New Zealand, asked, “Is the Committee now using secrecy to appoint doctors to this important Standards Committee who are responsible for unlawful abortion on demand?”

He urged that appointees to the Standards Committee commit themselves to “stopping the current unlawful abortion on demand” and “ensuring that abortions are lawful and that certifying consultants are not using mental health grounds to provide abortion on demand.”

Orr also called upon the Minister of Justice to release the names of the appointees.

A registered practitioner may legally perform an abortion in New Zealand only if acting under a certificate approved by two consultants, who are appointed by the Abortion Supervisory Committee.

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