Supreme Court upholds blanket abortion rule

Woah, loads of debate last week on gay mairrage and the like. Great stuff.

Another important issue that hasn’t received as much attention was the decision last week by the Supreme Court who confirmed three-to-two that the Abortion Supervisory Committee has no power to examine certifying consultants’ decisions allowing abortions in individual cases.

Right to Life New Zealand fought against the decision by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal had decided by a majority that the committee was not empowered to examine the lawfulness or the clinical correctness of particular decisions made by certifying consultants.

A Supreme Court majority of Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and judges Justice Peter Blanchard, now retired, and Justice Andrew Tipping upheld the Court of Appeal decision.

The Supreme Court majority thought the committee could ask consultants how they were approaching decision-making in general over the whole of their caseloads, a statement from the Supreme Court said.

But the majority view was that the committee could not question consultants about how they came to a diagnosis or conclusion in a particular case, even a case selected at random and presented anonymously in a consultant’s report.

While this may seem pretty ordinary, it actually has wide-reaching implications. The Supreme Court has basically said that the law as it stands does not allow the ASC to check in with dodgy consultants who are signing off on abortions on the weak grounds of mental health.

Odd and a real shame that most mainstream media did not run comments from Right to Life, which you would expect them to.

Right to Life, is however, disappointed that the Supreme Court dismissed the first grounds of our appeal of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. This ground sought recognition that the Committee had the power to review or scrutinize the decisions of certifying consultants and form its own view about the lawfulness of their decisions to the extent necessary to perform its functions.
Right to Life notes that 98 per cent of abortions are authorized on the grounds of mental health. Right to Life also notes that a previous chairperson of the Abortion Supervisory Committee, stated in a national newspaper in 2000 that she did not believe that all these women were suffering from mental ill health and that consultants were using mental health grounds to provide abortion on demand.

A set back for the pro-life movement. But we’ll soldier on. Thank God for good people like Ken Orr and Right to Life, for being brave and stepping up to fight the good fight on behalf of the unborn.

St. Mark the Evangalist, patron saint of lawyers, pray for us.

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    Comments: 6

    1. jodokaast August 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Kereopa,

      As a law graduate I’ve been following this case with some interest. I would have loved to have watched the proceedings as the judgement (and the Court of Appeal judgement) seem to say:

      We cannot have the committe reviewing or appealing individual cases.

      I’m not sure if the Courts misunderstood Right to Life’s position, or whether this was actually the position taken.

      Are you able to answer this?

    2. Don the Kiwi August 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

      I’m not sure of the finer points of law, as the “devil is in the detail” of the law.
      However, am I correct in believing that Dame Sian Elias is a Catholic??

      If she is, she would appear to be a Catholic In Name Only.

      Shame.

    3. Kereopa August 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm

      jodokaast, my understanding is that Right to Life were arguing that the Committee had abandoned its statutory responsibility to monitor the legality of individual certifying consultant.

      The Supreme Court has ruled that the Committee does have the power to make generalized inquiries into the way consultants are carrying out their functions. But that they cannot be forced to investigate.

      The reason for this is that a consultant who signs off on an abortion due to mental illness, when the woman is not neccessarily mentally unwell, means the consultant is breaking the law. That’s the clarification Right to Life was seeking.

    4. Chris Sullivan August 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Right to Life have a much more positive view on the Supreme Court decision:

      http://righttolife.org.nz/2012/08/09/supreme-court-confirms-duty-of-abortion-supervisory-committee-to-hold-certifying-consultants-accountable-for-abortions-they-authorise/

      If the government had the moral fibre to make sure the ASC complies, this could make a real difference.

      God Bless

    5. jodokaast August 14, 2012 at 8:45 am

      From the press release Sullivan linked to
      “This ground sought recognition that the Committee had the power to review or scrutinise the decisions of certifying consultants and form its own view about the lawfulness of their decisions to the extent necessary to perform its functions.”

      Does anyone have a copy of the judgement?