Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 22. 4th September 1974
The Knitting Needle Bill
The Knitting Needle Bill
A serious attack on women's rights was launched in Parliament last Friday when the politicians gave overwhelming support to Gerald Wall's private member's bill to restrict abortions to public hospitals.
If, during the further two readings of this bill (which will probably take place next week), it is passed into law, the low-cost Auckland abortion clinic will be forced to close and women wanting abortions will have no alternative, if they cannot afford the trip to Australia, but to put themselves at the mercy of the overcrowded public health service.
The record of public hospitals accepting abortion cases is abysmal. Furthermore, because of the state of the hospital service, women are likely to be kept waiting so long that the relative safety of early abortions will be denied them. The effect of the bill will be to severely restrict the availability of abortion, and thus to create conditions favouring back-street abortionists which have not existed over recent years as interpretation of the abortion laws has become more liberal
The bill is an effort to comply with the demands of the Society of the Protection of the Unborn Child to turn back the clock.
On Saturday, an ad hoc Committee to Oppose the Hospital Amendment Bill was formed at a meeting held in Wellington. The committee aims to involve all those in the community who see the bill as a retrograde step (whether or not they are in favour of changing the abortion laws) in a united effort to show the politicians the extent of public outrage against the bill. Already, indications are that opposition is widespread, including members of the medical profession and others who feel that at least some attempt should have been made to consult their views on the matter.
The committee has called a public protest meeting, which will be held in the Concert Chamber in the Town Hall on Friday evening at 8pm. Among the many speakers will be Dr Rex Hunton, director of the Auckland Medical Aid Trust which set up the Remuera clinic.
Dr Wall, MP for Porirua, is known for his personal opposition to abortion, but he carefully avoided mention of this in explaining his reasons for introducing the bill during a "Nationwide" interview. Instead, he claimed to be motivated by consideration for women's health, because of the lack of back-up facilities in private institutions. The insipid interviewer failed to make the obvious point: that if this lack was of any significance all operations in private hospitals must be equally as risky as abortion, if not more so, and such institutions as maternity homes would logically need to be closed too.
However, it seems that in parliament such logic is not appreciated. Only three MPs—Finlay. Tizard and Batchelor—spoke against the bill. Ms Batchelor made a much-needed blow for women's rights by saying that although she thought abortion was wrong, someone had to speak up for the thousands of women who did not agree..
There is no time to lose. The only thing that will prevent this bill taking effect is a massive and immediate indication of public reaction against it.
Make sure you get to Friday's meeting. And please bring a donation to help pay for the hall.