Don’t introduce abortion up-to-birth for Kiwi babies with Down syndrome.

URGENT UPDATE!

The final vote on the Bill is today.

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LETTER TO YOUR MPs

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THIS WEEK NZ MPs ARE VOTING ON THE ABORTION LEGISLATION BILL

WHAT’s AT STAKE?

The Abortion Legislation Bill will remove the current 20-week time limit for disability-selective abortion and allow for abortion up-to-birth for babies with Down syndrome.

Under section 187A of the Crimes Act there is currently a gestational time limit of 20-weeks for abortion for disability.

Under the proposed law, the 20-week gestational time limit for disability abortions will be removed and abortion will be available for disabilities including Down syndrome right through to birth under part one, clause seven of the Bill, which outlines new grounds under which abortions will be available between 20-weeks and birth.

In the handful of jurisdictions that have a similar clause allowing for abortion up-to-birth, this has in practice allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down syndrome.

For example, in Victoria, Australia, where there is a similar clause allowing for abortion up to birth, there is reliable data collection of abortions that have taken place between 20-weeks and birth, which is reported in the The Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity annual reports.

This data shows that there have been 1,685 abortions of babies with a disability between 20-weeks and birth since the law was changed there in 2008.

The Abortion Legislation Committee, which analysed the Abortion Legislation Bill at Select Committe stage made it clear in their final report (page 28) that they opted to keep this post 20-weeks provision in place in the Bill as they had been told by abortion providers that the majority of abortions that would happen between 20-weeks and birth would be for ‘fetal anomalies’ ie babies with disabilities such as Down syndrome.  

There was no attempt from this Committee to hide their intention to retain this clause in the Bill so that it could be used for disability-selective abortions – they stated it bluntly in their report.

THE IMPACT

Already the majority of babies in New Zealand diagnosed with Down syndrome are screened out by termination.

Removing the 20-week time limit for babies with disabilities and introducing abortion up to birth for Down syndrome would have a very large impact on the already small community of people with Down syndrome in NZ.

To introduce this change to the law would be downright discrimination.

We are therefore asking MPs to do the right thing for people with Down syndrome and vote against this discriminatory change in the law.

HOW WOULD THE LAW CHANGE?

CURRENT LAW
PROPOSED LAW
Summary
  • There is a 20-week gestational time limit for disability selective abortions.
Summary
  • The 20-week gestational time limit for disability selective abortion would be removed.
  • Abortion would be available for disabilities including Down syndrome between 20-weeks and birth.
Full details
Full details
  • Part 12 of the Abortion Legislation Bill removes section 187A of the Crimes Act which provides the current time limit for abortion for disability.
  • Part one, clause seven of the Abortion Legilsation Bill outlines new grounds under which abortions will be available between 20-weeks and birth.
  • In the handful of jurisdictions that have a similar clause allowing for abortion up-to-birth, this has in practice allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down syndrome.
    • For example, in Victoria, Australia, where there is a similar clause allowing for abortion up to birth, there is reliable data collection of abortions that take place between 20-weeks and birth which is reported in the The Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity Annual Reports.
    • This data shows that there have been 1,685 abortions of babies with a disability between 20-weeks and birth since the law was changed there in 2008.
    • Infact,the clause in Victoria requires the stricter requirement of two doctors to sign-off on the abortion, whereas the Abortion Legislation Bill would only require that two qualified health professionals to sign-off on the abortion. This could include nurses and midwives.
  • The Abortion Legislation Committee, which analysed the Abortion Legislation Bill at Select Committe stage themselves made it clear in their final report (page 28) that they opted to keep this post 20-weeks provision in place in the Bill as they had been told by abortion providers that the majority of abortions that would happen between 20-weeks and birth would be for ‘fetal anomalies’ ie babies with disabilties such as Down syndrome.
    • There was no attempt from this Committee to hide their intention to retain this proposed clause in the Abortion Legislation Bill so that it could be used for disability-selective abortions – they stated it bluntly in their report.

Download a pdf of how the law will change here.

View a pdf of how the law will change here.

FAQ

Already the majority of babies in New Zealand diagnosed with Down syndrome are screened out by termination. Removing the 20-week time limit for babies with disabilities and introducing abortion up to birth for Down syndrome would have a very large impact on the already small community of people with Down syndrome in NZ.

Many families raised their concerns in submissions to the Abortion Select Committee, that the Abortion Legislation Bill would remove the current 20-week time limit for disability-selective abortion and allow for abortion up to birth for babies with Down syndrome. They called for changes to be made to the Bill to ensure that this discriminatory change to the law was not introduced.

These concerns were totally ignored by the Committee. 

Infact, the Abortion Legislation Committee, which analysed the Abortion Legislation Bill at Select Committe stage themselves made it clear in their final report (page 28) that they opted to keep this post 20-weeks provision in place in the Bill as they had been told by abortion providers that the majority of abortions that would happen between 20-weeks and birth would be for ‘fetal anomalies’ ie babies with disabilities such as Down syndrome.  

There was no attempt from this Committee to hide their intention to retain this proposed clause in the Abortion Legislation Bill so that it could be used for disability-selective abortions – they stated it bluntly in their report.

Over 1200 people with Down’s syndrome and their families have signed a letter calling on the Prime Minister to ensure that the Bill did not remove the current 20-week time limit for disability-selective abortion and allow for abortion up to birth for babies with Down syndrome. Again the Government has made no attempt to change the proposed Bill.

We are now left with a Bill, following second reading, which will have a very large impact on the already small community of people with Down syndrome in NZ.

To introduce this change to the law would be downright discrimination.

We have therefore launched this campaign to ask MPs to do the right thing for the community of people with Down syndrome and vote against the Abortion Legislation Bill at Committe Stage this week.

The Abortion Legislation Bill will remove the current 20-week time limit for disability-selective abortion and allow for abortion up to birth for babies with Down syndrome.

Under section 187A of the Crimes Act there is currently a gestational time limit of 20-weeks for abortion for disability.

Under the proposed law, the 20-week gestational time limit for disability abortions would be removed and abortion would be available for disabilities, including Down syndrome, right through to birth under part one, clause seven of the Bill which outlines new grounds under which abortions will be available between 20-weeks and birth.

In the handful of jurisdictions that have a similar clause allowing for abortion up-to-birth, this has in practice allowed for abortion for disabilities including Down syndrome.

For example, in Victoria, Australia, where there is a similar clause allowing for abortion up to birth, there is reliable data collection of abortions that take place between 20-weeks and birth which is reported in the The Consultative Council on Obstetric and Paediatric Mortality and Morbidity annual reports.

This data shows that there have been 1,685 abortions of babies with a disability between 20-weeks and birth since the law was changed there in 2008.

Infact the clause in Victoria requires the stricter requirement of two doctors to sign-off on the abortion, whereas the Abortion Legislation Bill would only require that two qualified health professionals sign-off on the abortion, this could include nurses and midwives.

In the UK, abortion is available through to birth for disabilities including Down’s syndrome. 

In February the BBC reported that a woman had been offered an abortion at 38-weeks gestation – three days before she gave birth – because her baby had Down syndrome.

This women is not alone in her experience, one mother was offered an abortion at 37-weeks an another mother came under very strong pressure to abort her baby during her pregnancy, including being offered an abortion at 38-weeks:

“At 38 weeks they made it really, really, really clear, that if I changed my mind on the morning of the induction to let them know, because it wasn’t too late; until the baby had started travelling down the birth canal, I could still terminate.”

There is very large movement among the disability community in the UK to get the law changed there, so that abortion for disability is not available up-to-birth. This has been spearheaded by a young women with Down syndrome who has taken the UK Government to court over the current law and has a very large cross-section of the community supporting a change, including Bridget Jones Diary star Sally Phillips.  

Polling shows that the majority of people in the UK feel that disability should not be a grounds for abortion at all, with only one in three people thinking it is acceptable to ban abortion for gender or race but allow it for disability.

We feel than the New Zealand Government can do better for people with Down syndrome than introducing abortion up to birth and the strong discriminatory message that sends, along with the very impact it will have on the community of people with Down syndrome.

Instead, the Government should put the focus on positive policy changes that will create a better future for people with disabilities and their families.

If you are a New Zealander who has Down syndrome or have a family member with Down’s syndrome and want to support the campaign, please fill in the form by clicking here and we’ll add you as a supporter of the campaign.

If you are a member of the wider public, please make sure to email your MP, this only takes 30-seconds. Then if you have time, a follow-up call to their office will also help ensure this is put on their radar and they have voters who want them to vote against the Bill. Also, please share the campaign with friends and family, encouraging them to email their MP, and share out content on social media.

Help us ensure that abortion up-to-birth for Down syndrome is not introduced to New Zealand. 

WHO WE ARE

We are parents of children with Down syndrome who have come together to ask New Zealand MPs to not remove the current 20-week limit for abortion for disabilities and introduce abortion up to birth for babies with Down syndrome.

To introduce this change to the law would be downright discrimination.

We are therefore asking MPs to do the right thing for people with Down syndrome and vote against this discriminatory change in the law.

To contact us for general or media enquiries email info@downright.org.nz.

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT 

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If you are a New Zealander who has Downs syndrome or have a family member with Down syndrome and want to support the campaign, please click the button below to add your support to the campaign.

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DON’T INTRODUCE ABORTION UP TO BIRTH FOR DOWN SYNDROME

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