5 Oct 2010

No right to life for unborn child, Appeal Court told

6:40 pm on 5 October 2010

A foetus has no right to life under the New Zealand Bill of Rights, the Court of Appeal court has been told.

The court is hearing appeals taken by the Abortion Supervisory Committee and Right to Life New Zealand against matters raised in an earlier High Court case about abortion law.

In the High Court, Justice Miller found that the Abortion Supervisory Committee failed to rigourously supervise certifying consultants.

Justice Miller found that neither the Bill of Rights, nor the abortion law, recognised a foetus' right to life, but Right to Life New Zealand says he was wrong in that finding.

The judge also found the abortion law was being applied more liberally than Parliament intended, and there was reason to doubt the lawfulness of some abortions carried out on mental health grounds.

The Abortion Supervisory Committee's lawyer, Cheryl Gwyn, told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday that if Parliament had intended the Bill of Rights to protect foetal rights, it would have spelled that out in the legislation.

Ms Gwyn said other countries' legislation, such as the US Constitution, also failed to protect a foetus' right to life.

Lawyers for the committee told the Court of Appeal the High Court was wrong in ruling the committee had misinterpreted its powers relating to the work of certifying consultants.

Ms Gwyn told the Court of Appeal there was no evidence before the High Court that certifying consultants were approving abortions unlawfully.

She said the abortion statistics cannot show if the abortion rate is too high or if too many are being authorised on mental health grounds.