Anti-abortion group considers taking case to Supreme Court

By Martin Johnston

An anti-abortion group is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court. Photo / Mark Mitchell
An anti-abortion group is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court. Photo / Mark Mitchell

An anti-abortion group which is now facing costs of possibly $70,000 after its protracted court case failed says it is considering an appeal to the Supreme Court.

In a verdict released this week, the Court of Appeal found against Right to Life and in favour of the Abortion Supervisory Committee.

The court awarded costs to the committee, which the lobby group expects to be set at around $70,000.

"We do not have the funds to pay those projected costs," Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr said yesterday. "We would hope citizens who are concerned about these issues would support us."

"We have the opportunity to pursue this matter further with an appeal to the Supreme Court. That's a matter we will give serious consideration to and will take advice from our counsel."

The three judges who heard the Appeal Court case quashed Justice Forrest Miller's 2008 High Court finding that there was reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions, and his suggestion that New Zealand "essentially has abortion on request".

But they agreed with him that the law does not confer a right to life on the unborn child.

The Right to Life group argued many abortions were wrongfully permitted on grounds of the threat to the woman's mental health of continuing the pregnancy, and that the committee should investigate this.

The appeal judges were divided on Justice Miller's contention that the committee was empowered to review the decisions of certifying medical consultants, who are the gateway for a woman or girl seeking an abortion.

The Appeal Court majority ruled the High Court was wrong on this, but Right to Life is hanging on to the dissenting appeal view of Justice Terence Arnold.

He said it was "implausible" Parliament intended to preclude the committee from reviewing the way consultants performed their role.

Mr Orr said, "We don't consider we have been defeated in the Court of Appeal on this issue because, supporting our contention, we have Justice Miller in the High Court and Justice Arnold in the Court of Appeal - two against two."

The Abortion Law Reform Association, a pro-abortion group, applauded the appeal ruling. It said that in rejecting the earlier judgment's questioning of the lawfulness of many abortions, the Appeal Court had "ensured that doctors can't be pressured on second-guessed over authorising abortions".

"This is crucial for ensuring women continue to have abortion access under our criminalised abortion system," said association president Morgan Healey.

She said the legal challenges were evidence that abortion should be decriminalised.

Victoria did this in 2008.

Labour MP Steve Chadwick canvassed support last year for a Victoria-style bill to legalise abortion on request for women and girls up to 24 weeks into pregnancy and with the approval of a doctor for later abortions. The matter has not progressed.

- NZ Herald

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