Down’s syndrome advocacy call on Jacinda Arden to confirm time limit for disability abortion

Down’s syndrome advocacy call on Jacinda Arden to confirm time limit for disability abortion will not be lifted and for Labour Party chief of staff to apologise for threatening action against group
Media Release – Saving Downs 7 September 2017
Family First Comment: Once again, an important call being made…
“Down’s syndrome advocacy group Saving Downs are calling on Jacinda Arden to confirm that her pledge to change New Zealand’s abortion laws will not involve changing the current 20 week limit for disability-selective abortion…  In the handful of jurisdictions that have decriminalised abortion – China, Vietnam, Canada and two states in Australia – gestational time limits for disability-selective abortions have been removed and abortion for babies with disabilities are available right up to birth. The main group who have been lobbying for the introduction of the policy, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, have made it clear that they want to introduce abortion right up 40 weeks for children who have disabilities. Saving Downs have spoken to the Labour Party on this issue but they refused to give any confirmation that decriminalisation would not involve changing the current 20 week limit for disability-selective abortions.”

Down’s syndrome advocacy group Saving Downs are calling on Jacinda Arden to confirm that her pledge to change New Zealand’s abortion laws will not involve changing the current 20 week limit for disability-selective abortion and for Labour Party chief of staff Neale Jones to apologise for threatening action against the group for voicing their concerns on this issue.

In a televised leaders debate earlier this week, Arden pledged to decriminalise abortion saying that abortion “shouldn’t be in the Crimes Act”. She has repeated this in a follow-up statement to the media on Tuesday, but has yet to confirm that she will not be changing the current 20 week limit for disability-selective abortions.

The current New Zealand 20 week limit for disability selective abortions is contained in section 187A of the Crimes Act. In the handful of jurisdictions that have decriminalised abortion – China, Vietnam, Canada and two states in Australia – gestational time limits for disability-selective abortions have been removed and abortion for babies with disabilities are available right up to birth. The main group who have been lobbying for the introduction of the policy, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand, have made it clear that they want to introduce abortion right up 40 weeks for children who have disabilities.

Saving Downs have spoken to the Labour Party on this issue but they refused to give any confirmation that decriminalisation would not involve changing the current 20 week limit for disability-selective abortions.

Instead in a phone call on Tuesday evening the group were threatened by Labour chief of staff, Neale Jones, with action for publicly voicing their concerns about Arden’s abortion decriminalisation pledge and the implications it could have for people with Down’s syndrome and their families.

Mike Sullivan, head of Down’s syndrome advocacy group Saving Downs and father of Rebecca who has Down’s syndrome said:

“All we are asking for here is a simple confirmation from Jacinda Arden that her policy will not be changing the current 20-week limit for disability-selective abortions. We need clarification on this as in every other jurisdiction that has decriminalised abortion, gestational time limits for disability-selective abortions have been removed and abortion for babies with disabilities are available right up to birth. Our families deserve to know where the Labour Party stands on this ahead of the election.”

“We have asked Labour chief of staff Neil Jones for confirmation on this. He refused and instead threatened action against Saving Downs regarding our press release and social media posts on this issue. It’s disappointing to see that the Labour Party are trying to bully us into silence over genuine concerns we have about this policy and the implications it would have for people with disabilities and their families.”
ENDS