Lobby group call for law change

Lobby group Family First NZ have called for a policy change which would see parents notified immediately if their daughter has an abortion.

A petition is being presented to Parliament on behalf of a Stratford mother, whose teenaged daughter attempted suicide after a secret abortion was organised by a local school. Her story was featured on TVNZ’s Seven Sharp.

Family First NZ want the government to look at changing the laws to allow parents to be notified if their children undergo an abortion. Photo: File.

According to the Care of Children Act 2004, a girl of any age can give consent to an abortion and that consent operates as if it were given by her parents.

The Act effectively means parents need never know that their daughter has had such a procedure. It is the only medical procedure where parents can be ‘kept in the dark’.

“This means that while a parent has to sign a letter for their daughter to go on a school trip to the zoo or to play in the netball team, they are totally excluded from any knowledge or granting of permission for that same child to be put on the pill or have a surgical abortion,” says Family First NZ national director Bob McCoskrie.

“It begs the question - what is so unique about abortion procedures which allows for the prohibition of parental consent?”

Bob says a recent research paper argued that most female adolescents only start to acquire sufficient autonomous capacity from the age of 14 years, and as such, the legislative wording of the current law is problematic and arguably careless.

He says the current law is also out of step with the wishes of most New Zealanders.

A 2010 independent poll of 1,000 people by Curia Market Research found that four out of five people supported parental notification laws.

Bob adds: “In a similar independent poll in 2012, teens (aged 15-21) were asked: ‘Provided it won’t put the girl in physical danger, should parents be told if their school-aged daughter is pregnant and considering getting an abortion?

“Almost two out of three young respondents thought the parents should be told, while 34 per cent disagreed.”

More young men than women agreed, but both had majority agreement.

“It is significant that even young people can see the importance of having parents informed and involved,” says Bob, “even when they know that those same parents will be rightly disappointed and upset.

“This is a very strong response from young people, and is a rebuke to the politicians in 2004 who chose to exclude parents from this process when debating the provision in the Care of Children Bill.”

Family First NZ is calling for the law to be amended to allow for parental notification in all cases of medical advice, prescriptions and procedures unless it can be proved to a Family Court that it would place the child at extreme risk.

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