Abortion is one of those subjects on which a wise man keeps quiet. I wish I was wise. We don't have equal rights on this one. Women carry the load and their wishes should prevail.
When a problematic pregnancy occurs, in my experience women discuss it in delicate language and only to the extent necessary.
Nobody really wants to talk about abortion. Nobody, it seems to me, except a few gender warriors who want to fight another battle in a war they have already won.
I think they will be giving Jacinda Ardern nightmares. I wonder if she is regretting her endorsement of their call to remove abortion from the Crimes Act. Now it is on the Government's agenda though not exactly an urgent item.
Justice Minister Andrew Little got a report from the Law Commission nine months ago giving him decriminalisation options.
Last week he said he expects to make an announcement soon. He said the same in May.
I'd be surprised if either Labour or NZ First will be keen to proceed. This is a subject that could put the Government's survival at risk. If any single issue is capable of creating a new political party – a potential coalition partner for National – I think it is abortion.
New Zealand had its abortion debate in the 1970s. It produced the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion (CSA) Act 1977, which permitted abortion on limited grounds that have been liberally interpreted since its inception.
I believe removing abortion from the Crimes Act now would change little.
The Law Commission's report confirms women are not liable for prosecution under the Crimes Act for having an unauthorised abortion. They can be fined $200 under the CSA Act but none have been in its 40 years of operation.
The criminal law punishes only those who perform an illegal abortion. Since 1980 there have been 12 convictions. All the commission could find were those for assaults on women that caused, or were intended to cause, a miscarriage.
I'd ask: Do today's abortion law reformers really want that offence to be removed from the Crimes Act? They may say, and the commission agrees, that those assaults are covered by other provisions of the Crimes Act. But surely an action designed to kill a baby is more serious than common assault.
In my view, it is a baby. The attempt to redefine the beginning of life has been futile. People still refer to "the baby" from the moment a pregnancy is confirmed. It's when it's to be aborted that it's called a "fetus", if it's referred to at all.
Tellingly to me, the very word abortion, like euthanasia, is given euphemisms when applied to human life.
Today's abortion law reformers want to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and regulate it like any other medical or surgical procedure. The Law Commission has suggested three options for doing this.
One is to remove all statutory limits on eligibility for abortion and leave the decision entirely to the woman and her doctor. Another is to keep some statutory limits but take them out of the Crimes Act and put them in health legislation.
The third is a compromise between those, leaving the decision entirely to the woman and her doctor for pregnancies of up to 22 weeks but restricting later abortions. You would think that would satisfy the reformers but don't count on it.
I didn't know anybody advocated a right to late term abortions until I heard Hillary Clinton do so during her presidential election campaign. I thought I'd misheard her but not so.
Third trimester abortions are an issue in the US. I know Americans who voted for Trump for that reason alone.
The Crimes Act permits abortion later than 20 weeks only if it is necessary to save the mother's life or prevent "serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health".
That is higher test than for abortions up to 20 weeks which are supposed to require that the woman's life or physical or mental health is in "serious danger". Nearly all abortions in New Zealand (97 per cent in 2016) are authorised on that ground.
The Abortion Supervisory Committee estimates 30 per cent of women in New Zealand have an abortion during their lifetime. It is not known how many, if any, are refused.
Clearly abortion is very common though the rate has been declining in recent years, mainly among women under 24. We have abortion on request in practice if not in law.
To me, the Crimes Act recognises a right to life that we should honour in the breach.