Human Rights

Pro-life doctors in New Zealand sue to regain conscience protection rights

OB-GYN, abortion

After an abortion law passed last year, pro-life physicians in New Zealand are suing the Crown to regain their conscience protections. 

The Abortion Legislation Bill of 2020 was enacted in New Zealand in March 2020. In addition to decriminalizing abortion on demand up to 20 weeks, the law severely undermined conscience protections for pro-life physicians. 

The new law requires a doctor or health care professional who refuses to provide abortions to instead provide contact information for “another person who is a provider who is the closest provider” of abortion. It also gives employers legal latitude to terminate pro-life physicians and conscientious objectors if the “employee’s conscientious objection would unreasonably disrupt the employer’s provision of health services.”

The New Zealand Health Professionals Alliance (NZHPA) brought the suit in New Zealand’s high court on March 8th for a three-day hearing before Justice Rebecca Ellis. According to Newshub, plaintiff Ian Bassett argued that the abortion law makes pro-life physicians part of the “chain of causation that leads to taking a human life.”

New Zealand Right to Life president Chris O’Brien criticized the government’s encroachment on physicians’ conscience rights. “It’s not right for the government to be saying that all doctors must be able to perform those [abortions] – or even to actually refer them to someone who will – is making them complicit in the abortion itself,” O’Brien said.

READ: New Zealand survey reveals shortage of doctors willing to commit abortions

Terry Halamak, president of the New Zealand pro-abortion group Abortion Law Reform Association, said that the law supported “the right of people to get medical care without being harassed by their GP or their gynaecologist,” according to Newshub. 

Yet to equate conscientious objection to harassment is a gross mischaracterization. Allowing pro-life medical professionals to refuse participation in a procedure that directly takes a human life is in no way similar to harassment. Physicians can decline to participate in abortion while maintaining respect for their patients.

The pro-life legal challenge comes as abortion activists in New Zealand are on the offensive. Just last week, a pro-abortion Labour Party MP recently introduced an amendment to the Abortion Legislation Bill that would create buffer zones restricting pro-life speech around abortion facilities, as Live Action News reported.

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