INDEPENDENT NEWS

Family Planning Against Informed Consent

Published: Thu 12 Aug 1999 02:24 PM
Investigations by the Christian Heritage Party have revealed a serious divergence of opinion between the government and one of its main sexual and reproductive health providers, the New Zealand Family Planning Association, over the distribution of a Ministry of Health publication Considering an Abortion? What are your options?
The stated objective of the booklet according to Wyatt Creech, the Minister of Health, is to ‘provide information on abortion to women at the earliest possible stage of their pregnancy’ in a manner and format that is ‘acceptable and easily understood by a wide range of users’. The Ministry was happy enough with the 18-page booklet to print up 25,000 copies.
In line with its contract with the Family Planning Association, which receives $5,639,903 per annum from the government, the Ministry of Health duly sent the Association 1,500 booklets to be made available to pregnant women considering an abortion.
However, instead of distributing them to the public the FPA promptly returned them to the Ministry, thereby dashing any hope of informed consent.
The return of these booklets has demonstrated a serious rift between a government, which in 1996 stated that the aim of its Sexual and Reproductive Health strategy was “to reduce the abortion rate”, and an organisation which has done little to actively implement this policy.
Revelations of the mishandling of the booklet have angered Graham Capill, the Leader of Christian Heritage Party.
“Of course this begs the question as to why the government continually shells out such large amounts of money to a perennial non-team player. While the government is claiming that it wants to lower abortion rates, the Family Planning Association rejects a useful tool for informing New Zealand women of their options. In other words over five and a half million dollars of tax payer funding goes to an organisation which has not the slightest interest in carrying out government policy.
“In addition, the controversy over the returned booklets has thrown up a serious issue of credibility for the Minister of Health who said they had been returned simply because the FPA ‘prefers to use its own resources’ ”.
Contrary to the Minister’s assertions, the FPA declared that it did not want the booklet, Considering an Abortion?, because it was anti-abortion in tone. In particular, the FPA did not approve of the word “baby” when referring to a child after birth since they believed that it ‘weighted against the choice of abortion’. The Association also said that they objected to what they considered ‘emotive language’ when discussing foetal development including the use of terms such as ‘arms’, ‘legs’ and ‘toes’.
“It is beyond belief,” noted Capill, “that a child cannot be called a child and that the mention of arms, legs and toes is deemed emotive. Whatever happened to the facts. An unborn child at 10 weeks does have arms, legs, fingers and toes, no matter how inconvenient it may be for the Family Planning Association.”
Moreover, a source within the medical profession who wishes to remain anonymous noted that there is a good possibility that ‘the Family Planning Association was in breach of its current contractual obligations’, especially since previous contracts with the government required the Association to ‘maintain and distribute stocks of pamphlets’ published by the Ministry of Health.
On top of this, Healthlink South was forced to admit that approximately 60% of the women presenting themselves at the Lyndhurst abortion clinic in Christchurch are referred by the Family Planning Association. None of these women was offered a copy of the official Ministry of Health booklet.
“The Family Planning Association is not in the business of preventing abortions or even of giving women accurate information especially if it is likely to disrupt its cosy relationship with the abortion clinics which are blots on our country,” Capill said. “It is incredible to think that the FPA can just snub the Ministry of Health and taxpayers in such a cavalier manner.”
Why is it, asked Capill, that the “Minister seems to lack the political backbone to instruct the Family Planning Association to distribute this booklet in accordance with its contract with the Health Funding Authority?”

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