Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

Abortion cases not open for review, Supreme Court judges rule

An anti-abortion group's battle for a review of abortions has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Right to Life had argued many abortions were wrongly approved on mental health grounds and called for the Abortion Supervisory Committee to investigate.

The group had sought a judicial review of the committee's assertion that it has no oversight of the individual decisions made by certifying consultants who approve abortions.

High Court judge Justice Forrest Miller ruled in the group's favour in 2008, noting there was "reason to doubt the lawfulness of many abortions".

The Court of Appeal overturned that decision last year , and Right to Life appealed.

In a split decision yesterday, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal by a majority of three to two.

Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, Justice Andrew Tipping and Justice Peter Blanchard, now retired, upheld the Court of Appeal ruling. They found the law did not permit the committee to investigate the decisions of consultants in individual cases, but it could ask consultants how they approached decision making in general.

It was now up to the committee, "and ultimately perhaps to Parliament", to consider whether the law was functioning as it should.

Justices John McGrath and William Young dissented.

Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr said he was disappointed the committee could not scrutinise consultants' decisions but was pleased it could inquire about their decision making. He called it a positive step that would "place restraints on the abortion-on-demand regime".

- APNZ

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