Ruling on scan offer before abortions

Ruling on scan offer before abortions

By EMILY WATT – The Dominion Post

Women should be offered the opportunity to view the ultrasound scan of their baby before they decide to abort it, the Health and Disability Commissioner says.

Anti-abortion group Right to Life complained to the commissioner after finding four district health boards Auckland, Waikato, Wairarapa and Canterbury did not offer women the chance to view the scan before going ahead with an abortion. Waikato DHB said it was an “infringement of the patient’s rights” to offer it.

Commissioner Ron Paterson said any pregnant woman should be told of their right to view an ultrasound, and it was up to them whether they did or not.

It is a debate that is raging in the United States, where a number of states are considering passing laws that would force women to view an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion. Some want them to listen to a fetal heartbeat as well. Critics have labelled the proposals “emotional blackmail”.

New Zealand’s abortion rates are high, with more than one in five known pregnancies in New Zealand aborted. In 2007 the most recent statistics available 18,380 abortions were done.

The High Court made a landmark ruling last year that expressed “powerful misgivings” about the lawfulness of many abortions. That decision is due to be reviewed by the Court of Appeal next week.

Right to Life spokesman Ken Orr said offering women the opportunity to view an ultrasound scan would reduce abortions. He said American research showed when women considering an abortion were given the opportunity to view a scan, a large number of them chose not to go ahead.

Right to Life last year canvassed 13 DHBs to see whether they offer women considering abortion the chance to view ultrasound scans, which are taken to help determine the week of the pregnancy. Four did not.

Commissioner Ron Paterson has written to Waikato District Health board chief executive Craig Climo saying it was a woman’s choice whether or not to view the scan.

“She needs the information that she has the ability to view the scan to make this choice,” he wrote. Health Waikato said it supported the commissioner’s advice.Mr Paterson told The Dominion Post his comments “should not be misconstrued as being about abortion”.

“Most pregnant women undergoing an ultrasound scan would expect to be told that they can see the scan image if they wish to. There is nothing novel about confirming that the law entitles them to do so.”

He said in some cases it would be “distressing and inappropriate” to ask a woman if she wanted to see her scan.

Mr Orr now wants the abortion consent form changed so women confirm they were offered the chance to see the ultrasound.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said it was “a matter that should be addressed to the Abortion Supervisory Committee and I have directed Mr Orr to them”.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *