Submission by Robin Corner on the proposed abortion legislation.

I am against the proposed bill because the decision is first and foremost a moral one, not a medical one. The foetus is a person and debate should centre on his/her protection.

I am concerned about the public debate on this proposed legislation. Much is said about the mother’s rights and health, and rightly so. The mother’s health and wellbeing are extremely important. Yet I don’t see this as adequate. I believe the overwhelming issue is that there is another human being who is critically involved – the BABY! Surely protection of the baby should be central to our thinking about the issue. In most cases, the mother’s life is not significantly threatened. New Zealand has a maternal mortality rate of 11 deaths per 100,000 live births. But the babies are the most vulnerable people on the planet. They have no choices. They had no say about the circumstances of their conception. They have no say about who are their parents. They have no say about whether or not they are to be killed. And in abortion 100% of them are killed.

Some would object “We are not talking about a baby. We are talking about a foetus – just a blob of tissue.” Well science is not on the side of this argument. Right from conception the DNA is established and everything about this new person is determined. The sex of the baby, the colour of his/her eyes, the build, the intelligence, many aspects of their personality and everything else is set. Of course their upbringing, and the interactions of their personality will further define the person. But the result will be due to the interaction of their experience with their hereditary traits, received at conception.  This is the key issue of the debate. At what stage do we consider the baby human. It is a moral / ethical issue, not a medical one. Our civilisation ultimately depends on our moral / ethical choices.

We have all seen the photos of the baby in the womb. Perhaps the baby is sucking his/her thumb, turning round, pouting or kicking. Ask any mother “did your baby kick”? I’ve never heard any mother say “my baby did not”. Let’s consider the stages of the new person[1]:

  1. Three weeks post-conception (PC): embryo stage begins – the brain starts to develop
  2. Four weeks PC: head starts forming; the blood vessel that will become the heart starts to pulse
  3. Eight weeks PC: embryo has all basic organs except sex organs
  4. Nine weeks PC: foetal stage starts; reflexes start – our baby responds his/her environment
  5. 4-6 months PC: appearance of stronger heartbeat; fingernails; hair; eyelashes; toenails; dramatic growth
  6. 7-9 months PC: growth and preparation for birth
  7. During the whole period the brain has been developing, and the way this is going is critical for future psychological development. The brain continues to develop after birth.

At what stage does the baby become human? Presumably we all agree that every human life should be defended? Let’s look at some theoretically possible answers:

  1. At conception? Seems logical, but is that simplistic? What about other options?
  2. At the start of the embryo stage? Only now is the baby becoming recognisably human. Can we kill him/her before this stage?
  3. At eight weeks?  Only now does he/she have all their organs. Is the baby not human until this stage?
  4. At nine weeks? Only now is the baby interacting with the environment. Can we think of him/her as not being human until this stage?
  5. At nine months? The proposed law would allow the killing of the baby just before birth. Is the baby not yet human? He/she is about to enter the birth canal. In a few hours he/she will be with us. What is the moral difference between the baby A, who is about to enter the canal, and baby B, exiting the canal?
  6. After birth? If we think there is no moral difference between babies A and B in option 5, should we think of baby B as less than human? After all, his/her brain has to undergo more development yet. Ancient societies such as those of Greece and Rome found it OK to kill weakly infants. Should we adopt the same moral code? Would a newborn child feel pain if cut into pieces with an abortionist’s tools? What about a full term pre-born child? What about a 22-week old pre-born child? What thoughts does he/she think?

Surely on serious consideration, none of these options are acceptable except number 1, conception. Every human being should have rights and protection from conception to natural death. While we talk   about “stages of foetal development”, there are no real stages. The “stages” are only there to help medical personnel classify the babies. In fact one flows seamlessly into the next, and there is a continuum. None of the stages I listed have a point that justifies us saying “before this point we can consider this being as not-human. The “Sanctity of Human Life” doctrine was upheld by law for centuries, before being eroded in recent decades. Look at the carnage in society now the belief in the sanctity of life is in doubt. Is our epidemic of suicides unrelated to our doubts about the sanctity of life? I have been to places in the world where human life is cheap. I don’t want our nation to take this road. The Nazis killed millions. Mao Tse Tung is alleged to have killed 40 million people. We must surely return to the sanctity of life ethic. Many will not see the connection, but these issues are connected. The connection is the lack of a sanctity of life ethic. Passing the proposed legislation would be to take some more steps down the slippery slope.

It’s not anyone’s inalienable right to choose a course which will result in the death of another person. If it were a woman’s inalienable right to choose how to act, she could choose to drive a car at 200 Km/hour in a built-up area. A few people would be killed, but she would have exercised her “RIGHT TO CHOOSE”. Of course this example is ridiculous, but it does show that the right to choose is not absolute. It must be subordinate to the sanctity of life.

Nobody has the right to kill another person. Under the proposed new law as I understand it, it would be possible to have an abortion at full term. Surely everyone must acknowledge that immediately pre-birth, the child in the womb is a human person? Passing through the birth canal, the child can feel and move. The newborn has a human appearance and features. Who can deny the baby is a human being?

The proposal to take abortion out of the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice and under the Ministry of Health is an appalling proposal. As stated previously, it is a moral, not a medical issue. Generations of New Zealanders will grow up thinking that there is nothing wrong with killing. 

The really troubling thing is that there is absolutely no discussion about these important points in the current debate. Pro- and anti- life factions put their points without any true interaction, as if both came from a different planet. “A woman’s right to choose” has become a dogma of what has become the true religion of New Zealand – secularism. It’s a utilitarian age where everyone is interested in outcomes rather than principles. But surely even people whose thinking has been shaped by secularism must in all conscience see the logic in the pro-life position. This article is a plea to every fair-minded person: please consider the ethics of terminating life in the womb before implementing a law which sees abortion as just a medical procedure, to which every woman has a right. Surely every abortion is a moral decision which no one would want if they fully and carefully considered all the facts.



[1] Source: “Very Well Mind

author  Kendra Cherry

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