IN the normal course I'd welcome a debate with someone taking issue with a column I wrote, providing that the debate were civil and based upon a shared respect for the factual. Honest debate is one means for trying to get at the truth by engaging with competing ideas, rooted in evidence, and respecting facts.

Unfortunately, that's not the case with the op-ed of Ken Orr (Chronicle, November 14), spokesperson for Right To Life.

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In addition to his failure to apologise or seriously address my accusation of sexual harassment where the PM's private life is concerned, Mr Orr chooses to distract with an argument about abortion and the law, an argument that completely mis-states the law in order to appear to lend credulity and to foster his extremist position.

My op-ed charged RTL with sexual harassment, as RTL's stated disapproval of Jacinda Ardern's personal life, living with Clarke Gayford, unmarried, is an unwanted (and undeserved) intrusion into her personal sexual choices. Her private life, even if the media tell of it, is, as a fully competent consenting adult, her own business. We, the citizens, the voters, have every right - indeed an obligation - to question her policies and the conduct of her government. We just have no right to intrude into her bedroom.


I suggested that a proper remedy for its sexual harassment of the PM was an apology to her and to Mr Gayford, and for RTL to apply themselves to support Ms Ardern's policy of mitigation for the children living in poverty in our country.

But that's not how RTL sees it.

Rather than take honest issue with the substance, Mr Orr preferred to throw out some red meat for his followers, opposed to marriage equality, by insisting, against the facts of biologic science and the reality of our current law, that in harassing Ms Ardern he is defending "natural marriage" as between one man and one woman. Just how his bigotry excuses his sexual harassment remains a mystery.

Undeterred by fact, Orr claims the right to hold our PM to a "high standard" - meaning his own - and by that standard he claims that she is not a good role model, for our children, for our international standing.

When our former PM, John Key, was exposed for the multiple instances of his pulling women's hair (one clearly under age) without their consent, RTL made no sound of disapproval.

Could that be because Key's party, National, had no plans to decriminalise abortion? Or is that because men will be boys, nudge, nudge, wink, wink?

Either way, the selective morality of RTL's disapproval of our female Labour PM's private life while lending tacit approval of a male PM's publicly witnessed sexual harassment smacks of moral relativism.

It's entirely of a piece with the Evangelical Christians of the US state of Alabama who continue to support a Republican candidate for US Senate despite credible accusations of sexual assault by nine women, one 14 years old at the time, because he is against abortion.

RTL, whether here or there, is not in the business of protecting women. To protect women, one needs to support their agency and foster their ability to be their own person. Instead, RTL provides a false piety as cover for their aim to control the choices that women are too often forced to make, sometimes against their own biologic destiny.

This false piety is of a piece with RTL's lack of humanity when it comes to the plight of the woman who is faced with the agonising choice to end her pregnancy. RTL ignores the plight of the incest survivor or that of the woman whose experience of rape has the added imposition of an unwanted pregnancy or that all-too-common situation of a woman with children whose social and financial situation makes her unplanned pregnancy an overwhelming burden.

RTL's response added insult to injury. It has a lot to be ashamed of.

Jay Kuten is an American-trained forensic psychiatrist who emigrated to New Zealand for the fly fishing. He spent 40 years comforting the afflicted and intends to spend the rest afflicting the comfortable.