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How to make a submission to the Law Commission about abortion law reform

Many Spinoff Parents readers have asked how to make a submission on abortion law reform in New Zealand. We asked national president of ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa Terry Bellamak to write a guide for us.

During the election campaign last year Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised to reform New Zealand’s abortion laws. Her government appears to be in the process of keeping that promise.

In February, at the prime minister’s direction, the minister of justice asked the Law Commission to undertake a review of New Zealand’s abortion laws. Minister Little asked for options on how to change the legal framework to treat abortion as a health matter, rather than a criminal matter.

This is different from the usual Law Commission review, which results in recommendations rather than options.

The Law Commission is to report back at the end of October. It has called for submissions from interested parties. Closing date for submissions is 18 May.

This is where you come in if you’re a person who has needed abortion care, who might one day need abortion care, or who loves someone who might. If you have something to say, the Law Commission wants to hear it.

Folks have been asking, how can I make a submission that will make an impression, inform the discussion, change the conversation for the better?

Think about it from the Law Commission’s perspective: they will undoubtedly be sifting through heaps of submissions. Many will say something like “I support decriminalisation” or the opposite. Many will run through the usual, totally valid arguments about why we should trust pregnant people to decide for themselves whether they need abortion care or not.They will talk about getting rid of the grounds, the certifying consultants, the approvals. They might criticise the paternalistic, pseudo-scientific, fringe religious arguments of anti-abortion activists.

But here’s the thing. The Law Commission can hear those arguments from anybody. Literally anybody.

But YOUR story? That’s something the Law Commission can only hear from you.


Related:

Abortion is not a crime: 16 reasons to change the law

Four women talk about their experiences getting an abortion in New Zealand

Positive: a woman’s abortion story

Surely it’s time for a grown-up conversation about abortion?

How working in an abortion clinic changed my mind about terminations


Human beings learn by listening to stories. Tell them your story. People will remember.

Here are some questions to think about, things the Law Commission will want to hear about.

Have you had an abortion? What worked well for you? What did not?

Did you realise you had to get the approval of two certifying consultants? Did you realise they needed you to say your mental health would be affected by carrying the pregnancy? How did you feel about that?

How long did the process take for you? How did that delay work for you, being pregnant the whole time?

Was it easy to get to all the appointments? What was the most difficult part?

How did the people around you react? Were there some who were supportive? Judgemental?

Did you encounter protesters on the way to the service? How did that make you feel?

Are you a doctor or a nurse who provides abortion care? How do you feel about the patients having to get two approvals?

What about the counselling? Was it mandatory? Did you find it valuable, or was it a waste of time? A little bit of both?

Or if you have never needed abortion care – how does it feel to know you can’t get it on your own say-so, that you need some random doctors’ approval? That it is still in the Crimes Act? Does that seem fair?

Have you held the hand of a friend who has been through it?

And most of all – if you have been denied an abortion you needed – how did that make you feel? How has it affected your life?

Please keep in mind: submissions are subject to the Official Information Act. There would likely be a strong argument for redacting the names of submitters who told personal stories, but it’s definitely an option to just not give your name. The Law Commission will look at all submissions, whether the submitters are identifiable or not.

Please make a submission. You have a story to tell.

And we will all be the better for your telling it.

You can make submissions to the Law Commission via their website at or by email at alr@lawcom.govt.nz.

For more information about abortion law reform visit our website or our Facebook page.

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