It’s not law yet. But it should be. It’s the Abortion Funding Conscience Act. Any MP in our Parliament could submit it as a members bill. Indeed any political party that values freedom of conscience could introduce such a bill. The question is – will they?
As noted in my last blog, our current system means MPs who affirm the sanctity of human life are forced to support abortion funding because it is packaged within vote Health in the budget. Tax payers are likewise forced to fund via their taxes the “choices” of others that they may wish to have no part in. However it doesn’t have to be this way. And it won’t be when we have the Abortion Funding Conscience Act.
This legislation would do two things. Firstly it would require public funding for terminating the lives of unborn children to be separately identified in each year’s annual budget appropriations. That funding would be ring-fenced and required to be voted on separately from the rest of the budget. MPs would thus have the freedom to express their conscience on the matter – either way. In particular Government MPs would not be forced to vote through abortion funding simply because it is part of their party’s Health budget.
This is not about the legality (or otherwise) of the vast majority of abortions being undertaken in our country. That is a separate issue. This is about how it is all funded. If Parliament decides not to provide public funding for abortion then those who wish to make that “choice” would simply have to pay for it themselves. There are plenty of other health services which are not publicly funded in New Zealand – all of them far less controversial than abortion. Think of dental work, drugs not funded by Pharmac, or long term dementia care for those with assets.
The second key feature of the Abortion Funding Conscience Act would allow all New Zealanders, not just MPs, to express their conscience on the issue. Because even if Parliament decides to publicly fund abortion, there will remain a large proportion of of tax payers who hold profound ethical objections to having their taxes used for this purpose.
In recognition of this the Act would establish an on-line register held by IRD where such tax payers could record their conscientious objection. There would be no cash or financial implications, just a simple registering of opposition. This would not be mere token symbolism . It would be a legally recognised declaration of deeply held conviction.
Of course there are many publicly funded activities which individual MPs and tax payers may find objectionable. It would be inappropriate and impractical to make conscientious allowances for them all. In most cases it is simply a matter of accepting the outcome of the democratic process. However when it comes to the sanctity of human life there is a line which no-one should be forced to cross against their conscience. This is a matter of honouring and respecting the values and beliefs of many New Zealanders on a foundational ethical question.
Will we ever see the Abortion Funding Conscience Act in our nation? We will if our Parliamentarians put into practice what it truly means to be an “Honourable Member”.
The New Zealand taxpayer picks up the tab for 13,000 abortions annually. It costs around $20million. However you won’t find it identified anywhere in today’s Budget. It’s well hidden in the Vote Health appropriation. That’s the way our politicians like it – out of sight, out of mind.
Over the next few weeks Government politicians will dutifully vote through the funding without a second thought. Even ostensibly pro-life MPs will simply endorse the Health appropriation without ever considering that it includes financing for terminating the lives of unborn children. None them will raise a question. They never have.
Of course the abortion funding is a very small component of a very big budget. But it’s not the amount of funding that is the issue. It’s the principle. In our system the “choices” of some become the tax bill of others – others who may hold profound ethical objections to those choices. New Zealanders who affirm the sanctity of human life are left with no choice. Through their taxes they are forced to participate in something they want no part of.
It is not this way in other countries. In the United States for instance, Federal funding of abortion is specifically legislated against. Their leaders understand that when it comes to terminating the lives of unborn children, those who support so called “choice” should not expect others to pay for it.
Our pro-life MPs need to find some courage. They should at least seek to have abortion funding separately identified in the Budget, ring-fenced and voted on separately from the rest of the appropriations. They could then express their own conscience on the matter. They could also represent the views of many ordinary citizens – New Zealanders whose views are currently kept well hidden by the silence that prevails on this issue in our Parliament.
Family dysfunction and relationship breakdown are key drivers of suicide in New Zealand. Yet the Government’s latest suicide prevention strategy doesn’t even mention them. Instead there is the usual sophisticated bureaucratic waffle and nice framework diagrams that mean nothing and will achieve the same.
Mike King, a member of the panel that helped prepare the strategy, expressed his disappointment bluntly. Plenty of others in the media have also joined in the criticism. However even they are missing the point. Against their chorus of cries for the Government to “do something about mental health” is the fact that much is already being done.
Over $1.4 billion of taxpayer’s money is now spent on mental health services every year. Fully staffed acute psych units are available 24-7 all around the country. Community mental health teams provide outpatient care. GPs see and prescribe anti-depressants to tens of thousands of New Zealanders.
No doubt there can be improvements to services. Yet the real question is why are so many more New Zealanders needing help? It is true that stress in all forms can lead to mental health problems. However probably the greatest area of growing stress in our community over the last thirty years has been the increasing dysfunction in our families and relationships.
It is no coincidence that, as the strategy notes, suicide rates among young Maori men are far higher than for others. As a group they have borne the brunt of the new culture of “fluid and diverse” family forms. For many of them fathers have been substituted by a series of mum’s latest boyfriends and they have grown up in insecure, and abusive environments. Is it any wonder they struggle to find meaning, value and hope?
Our ongoing pretense that marriage and commitment do not matter is an exercise in national delusion. It is messing with our minds. Deal with it and then we will make real progress to improve mental health in New Zealand.
The rush by some politicians to abandon our blasphemy laws is remarkable. It only came up as a minor issue in Ireland yesterday and by 3pm today Act Leader David Seymour was seeking Parliament’s repeal of the New Zealand blasphemy law. Failing there, he is now threatening a private members bill to deal with what he has evidently decided is a very important matter. Really?
What is more astonishing than the speed with which this issue has been elevated is the sheer hypocrisy of many of those piling on to the repeal bandwagon. Apparently in the name of free speech it is fine to speak all manner of offensive untruths about religion and people of faith. However dare to raise the slightest question about homosexuality, transgender ideology, or any other favourite liberal cause and you become the reason why we need “hate speech” laws.
Indeed to simply express in a respectful way an orthodox Judeo-Christian position on sexuality, relationship ethics or the sanctity of human life is now to invite threats and intimidation. If it’s not the condemnation of the Human Rights Commissioner or some other liberal group, it’s the outrage of so called “newsreaders” asking if such views are even legal – and by implication asserting they shouldn’t be.
We probably don’t need blasphemy laws. God is big enough to defend Himself. Christians in New Zealand also seem secure enough not to be too bothered about the steady stream of invective that comes their way. However if we are going repeal blasphemy laws in the name of free speech then lets have it both ways. For that to happen all those now climbing on the repeal blasphemy bandwagon will first have to get off their “hate speech” bandwagon. You can’t be on both.
Prime Minister Bill English today told us that our housing affordability crisis “is fundamentally a product of poorly-directed…views about the environment”. He is simply wrong, utterly unconvincing and has his head firmly in the sand.
Aucklanders know what has driven house prices in their city to ludicrous levels. Uncontrolled immigration, unmitigated speculation and a government unwilling to face reality and do anything about it. Instead they have opined lack of supply and used the situation as an opportunity to constantly attack the RMA and local councils – all the while doing nothing about the underlying driver of the problem. Of course supply is an issue, but it is only so because of the excess demand. Demand fueled by both foreign speculators and plenty of local ones as well.
There are plenty of things they could have done do to address demand (refer “Eight steps to stabilising the Auckland housing market“) but instead any action they have taken in that space has always been too little too late. So now we have the problem spreading across New Zealand whilst Auckland sways on the edge of a a major market correction.
In the face of his government’s inaction for the last six years English’s concern about the impact of housing costs on low income families rings hollow. He argues that we can’t expect those households “to carry the burden of arbitrary preferences exercised by people having a view about amenity value that can include everything from furniture layouts in houses that haven’t been built, through to positioning of plants on a section.”
Does he really think this is the problem? If he had visited some auction rooms in Auckland over the last few years he may have got a proper grip on reality.
The euthanasia lobby trumpeted the huge number of submissions to Health Select Committee on their petition seeking to legalise “assisted dying” in New Zealand. They said this showed we needed change. However at the Committee hearing this afternoon some of the 20,000 submissions were heard – and it gave lie to the lobbyists. The traffic was one way. And it was a resounding “NO”.
In the hour I was there waiting to comment on my own submission, the presenters heard by the MPs were literally 10 to 1 against normalising suicide in our country.
There was the young woman who had struggled through depression and was glad no “choice” was ever offered to her of ending her life. She would probably have taken it. But now she knows life gets better.
There was the palliative care nurse who saw death as not an individual right, but rather a communal event where everyone needed to be supported and protected.
There was the school guidance counsellor who described how she was legally, ethically and professionally obligated to do everything in her power to stop young people committing suicide. She asked how could she do that if suicide was validated by the State.
There was the young man opposing normalising suicide because death was final with no opportunity to change your mind. He spoke of a friend who hanged himself – but had scratch marks on his neck where he had desperately but unsuccessfully tried to reverse his tragic decision.
It was raw. It was intense. I was proud of the brave New Zealanders who turned up and put their stake in the ground to protect their vulnerable fellow citizens. Their voices were quiet, but compelling. May they be heard.