Title: Attack of the Scary Parents Credit: Craig Young Comment Friday 5th November 2004 - 12:00pm1099609200 Article: 473 Rights
The New Zealand Christian Right suffered a major setback when Judith Collins and Murray Smith failed to sabotage the progress of the Care of Children Bill last Thursday. Collins and Smith decided to pander to New Zealand's tiny, fragmented and shrinking anti-abortion movement through moving a 'parental interference' motion for young women who needed abortion access who were under sixteen. Before the current government decided to update guardianship legislation, this was enshrined in Section 25A of the Guardianship Act 1968, as amended by the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977. In the mid-eighties, Britain's House of Lords recognised the wisdom of medical confidentiality for competent female adolescents when it handed down the Gillick verdict. Victoria Gillick had tried to interfere with adolescent access to contraception, only to be told that it was none of her business. But in the late nineties, the USA anti-abortion movement found that 'parental consent and notification' state laws were a winner for its incrementalist anti-abortion strategy. Perhaps with the USA example in mind Judith Collins, Bill English and Don Brash decided to disregard the wishes of the medical professionals of the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) and Royal College of New Zealand General Practitioners (RCNZGP, and interfere with the status quo. United Future decided to get in on the act too, particularly Murray Smith, an old offsider of Graeme Lees who is an unreconstructed Christian Democrat from that period. Collins and Smith produced two supplementary order papers to amend Section 37 of the new Care of Children Bill when it received its second parliamentary reading. In itself, this suggests that the New Zealand anti-abortion movement had no real control over the course of events. SPUC/Voice for Life and Right to Life New Zealand split apart in 2000, after the latter's Christchurch branch advocated total prohibition of abortion, which SPUC/Voice for Life argued was not politically feasible. At the same time, SPUC closed down its flagship tabloid, Humanity, and started a four-page glossy puff sheet, Pro-Life Times. As the new millenium arrived, the divided movement lost its tertiary student and 'recovering recidivist womens' groups and contracted down to SPUC and Right to Life New Zealand. When Collins announced her grandstanding, the fraegmented SPUC/Right To Life couldn't take advantage of the initiative that was handed to it/them, and handed responsibilities over to the Maxim Institute. Maxim established "Parents Care," a front group, whose status was apparent from its media page, which contained links to Bruce Logan, Bill English, Don Brash and Judith Collins. However, this front group seemed to be invisible within the media and never emerged as an authentic spokesgroup. Furthermore, Murray Smith got annoyed when Collins backpedalled under intense pressure from the NZMA and RNZCGP, and announced that pregnant incest survivors would 'only' have to prove their case to a Family Court judge, and didn't neccessarily have to have parental consent. Smith objected to this dilution and put forth his own supplementary order paper, only a fortnight or so before the Care of Children Bill was debated after reference to the Justice Select Committee. Neither expected intensive opposition from the medical profession and government over this issue, which resulted in the defeat of both supplementary order papers. Why is this defeat for the Christian Right significant for glbt people? This anti-abortion campaign demonstrated the ineptitude of the Christian Right, especially the Maxim Institute, when faced with organised professional opposition to its socially conservative agenda. It is strongly reminiscent of their concurrent campaign against lesbian/gay/trans relationship recognition, and may bode well for the forthcoming second readings of the Civil Union and associated Relationship (Statutory Recognition) Bills. For the National Party, Collins' folly may be reflected in a further poll slump for that party, while Labour may pick up antagonised female pro-choice voters. Don Brash might experience similar backlash in his opinion poll standing, given his own foolhardy support for Collins. As for United Future, surely this latest rebuff must signal to that party that it is barely tolerated by Labour, its confidence and supply partner, and loathed by National, given the seventy-vote margin of defeat for Smith's gambit. And it is a longshot that United Future will ever learn that the New Zealand public is strongly averse to its virulent, extremist social conservative agenda until it reaps the reward of that extremism at the next general election. Roll on, September 2005. Craig Young - 5th November 2004    
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