ALRANZ: Butt out of disability rights!

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The Abortion Law Reform Association of NZ (ALRANZ) recently published 16 Reasons to Change NZ’s Abortion Laws, as part of a campaign to lobby on this issue in the upcoming parliamentary elections in New Zealand.

As an advocacy group, we leave the wider abortion debate to others. Our focus is on the rights of the Down syndrome community and prenatal discrimination. But when a group walks head-on into a campaign that tramples over the rights of our community, we will have something to say.

ALRANZ are a small group of extreme abortion advocates who want abortion on request up to birth in New Zealand without restrictions. They support disability selective abortion under the all encompassing “for any reason”. Let’s take a look at their “reasons” for wanting to change New Zealand Law.

Reason 3:

“The language used and the focus on “mentally abnormal”, “seriously handicapped” and “severely subnormal” in the Crimes Act is demeaning to disabled persons.”

Yes, the law is demeaning to disabled persons. Not because of some outdated language though, but because the law discriminates against them by providing for disability selective abortion. Hence, denying them the right to be born free from discrimination.

For clarity, the current law is based on the 1977 Royal Commission’s report on abortion.  The Commission dealt with the issue of “handicapped” persons, stating:

Royal Commision

 “It is not immoral to terminate a pregnancy where the fetus is likely to be born with a severe physical or mental handicap, because the burden of the handicapped person to himself and to his parents may be greater than the sum total of their happiness.”

“The termination of unborn life for reasons of social convenience is morally wrong.”

The Commission determined that a termination for social convenience would be morally wrong, but a termination for disability is morally justified. The former are even “unborn life” and those with a disability are a “fetus“. There is clearly a discriminatory bias at play here.

Look at what the Commission had to say about Down syndrome:

Royal Commision 2

Looks like they thought that those with Down syndrome are off less worth than others?

So, New Zealand legalised eugenics by providing for disability as a ground for abortion in 1977 on the reasoning that people with disabilities are of less worth than others and their degree of burden exceeds their happiness. But ALRANZ would have us believe that it is just the language that is demeaning to disabled persons, not the fact that they are targeted for disability selective abortion.

The fact of the matter is that the New Zealand law is discriminatory. It provides a lower level of protection before birth than others based on their ability. Last year a UK Parliamentary Inquiry on abortion and disability reached the same conclusion and recommended that prenatal discrimination be banned.

So, what is ALRANZ’s solution to a discriminatory law then? Lets look at Reason 9:

 “There is a problem for abortions on the grounds of fetal abnormality. This is a ground up to 20 weeks but sometimes the diagnosis is not made until after 20 weeks and the abortion must then be done on the grounds of serious permanent injury to the mental health of the woman. The Abortion Supervisory Committee has pointed out this anomaly to Parliament more than once but no action has been taken. This situation is distressing for the woman and her family.”

Yep, ALRANZ think a 20-week limit on disability selective abortions is a problem. It might miss some unborn children with a disability. It is distressing for the woman and her family.

But hang on. ALRANZ is promoting the same law introduced in Victoria, Australia in 2008 for New Zealand. A law that allows for disability selective abortion up to birth.

Yep. ALRANZ’s solution to this “20 week problem” is to provide for late-term disability selective abortions up to birth.

It takes a special kind of intellectual dissonance to say that the language used in the current law is demeaning to disabled persons whilst complaining that a 20-week limit is a problem, as it doesn’t allow for some late-term disability selective abortions. Now, that is demeaning to disabled persons and their families.

Maybe it has escaped ALRANZ’s attention that women “at 20 weeks” have wanted pregnancies and they are looking for health care for their child.

Let’s be clear. ALRANZ are promoting a law that will provide for the uncontrolled selection of the type of child to be born. That’s discrimination and it offends the basic principles of respect and dignity for human diversity. In the same way that female sex selection is sex discrimination, disability selection is discrimination. It is a form of voluntary eugenics by the mother, and enforced eugenics on the unborn child.

It takes a rather extreme agenda to push for unrestricted disability selective abortions up to birth, whilst pretending that you are concerned with anything that might be demeaning to those living with disability.

There is nothing more demeaning to someone living with a disability than to be told that you life is of such little worth that the law should be changed to allow for you to be killed right up to the moment of your natural birth.

So ALRANZ, keep out of disability rights. Stop promoting laws that will provide for the uncontrolled selection of the type of children to be born. It’s discrimination. It’s eugenics. And it’s not welcome in New Zealand.


It is extremely disappointing to learn from ALRANZ that Green Party candidates support their agenda. One of their higher-ranking list candidates also seems to be advocating for them in this article.

About the Author
Mike Sullivan, Spokesperson for Saving Downs
One Comment
  1. Daniela Barberis Reply

    this whole discussion and those paras you have posted are just so very sad, just when did society come to the conclusion that we have the right to determine which life is of more value than others, WHY is my life of more value to a weaker member of this society, why can we not, instead, support all the weaker born of this world, those with “faults”, etc. medicine has never been more able to help people born with medical needs. I am very saddened to be part of a society who cannot stand up for all their citizens, no matter what their “weakness” might be!

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