Voice for Life
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Voice for Life was founded in 1970, as the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child (SPUC), by pioneering New Zealand foetal surgeon Professor Sir William Liley, who became the organisation’s first president. The organisation should not be confused with the similarly motivated and named, UK-based Society for the Protection of Unborn Children which is also abbreviated to SPUC.
Liley was an obstetrician and gynecologist, internationally renowned as the “father of foetology”, the pioneering science of life in the womb. He was deeply disturbed by the changes in the British medical profession following the passing of the Abortion Law Reform Act 1967 and wrote numerous articles for NZ newspapers and journals explaining the humanity of the embryo and foetus from conception and the case for effective protection.
The abortion debate of the 1970s stirred powerful passions, particularly as “reproductive freedom” was at the forefront of the emerging feminist movement. SPUC played a major advocacy role in a divided Parliament, which in 1975 established a Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion.
Parliamentarians wrestled with the problem of how to reconcile protection for the fertilized egg, embryo, or foetus with the needs of women who were seeking abortions. The result was the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977, which set out the grounds and the machinery by which abortions might be approved. through amendment of the Crimes Act 1961. The Abortion Supervisory Committee oversees the working of the Act under which 98% of all abortions are approved on mental health grounds. However, while it appoints certifying consultants, it has no power to breach doctor/patient medical confidentiality, nor is it able to remove certifying consultants once appointed.
The year 1977 was the highlight of SPUC's success as a lobbying group.
Legal challenge to abortion
According to its official historian, late former president Marilyn Pryor, the New Zealand pro-life movement suffered a devastating defeat in the 1982 Auckland High Court case Wall v Livingston, in which a pro-life doctor attempted a legal challenge to an abortion approved by two certifying consultants. Wall lost the case, with Justice Speight ruling that the fetus could not be represented and had no statutory rights until born and that the decisions of certifying consultants were beyond judicial review. This decision has stood since that point, over thirty years ago.
Status of the Unborn Child bill and pro-life schism
The Status of the Unborn Child Bill caused a schism within the New Zealand pro-life movement. Christchurch SPUC (now Right to Life New Zealand) was expelled from SPUC (now Voice for Life) for continuing to advocate passage of the Status of the Unborn Child Bill, when National SPUC had decided that there was insufficient support to do so within Parliament, and had decided on incremental tactics to oppose abortion.
Informed Consent booklet
In the 1990s, SPUC, concerned about the information provided to unwillingly pregnant women seeking abortions, started an initiative that resulted in New Zealand's Ministry of Health producing an information booklet. The Minister of Health at the time was Bill English, who strongly opposed abortion. After repeated delays, the booklet was published. In September, 1988, the ministry sent out 25,000 copies of the 18-page booklet, "Considering an Abortion? What are your Options?" However, the booklets were returned to the ministry by both the New Zealand Family Planning Council and counselors at some clinics that provided abortions, although some general practitioners kept and used them. The booklet has not been reprinted.
Breast cancer controversy
Voice for Life in the mid-2000s ran nationwide advertisements on a questionable "abortion-breast cancer" link. In 2003 they brought to Australia Angela Lanfranchi, a private breast surgeon, who claimed that abortion increased the risk of breast cancer. The CV provided by SPUC showed that Ms Lanfranchi has one publication to her name. The booklet she wrote on the subject is distributed by abortion foe Babette Francis of the Endeavour Forum of Australia. This claim is counter-factual. The National Women's Health Network, along with the American Cancer Society and the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI), evaluated the science on the issue and decided that the claim was unfounded. The NCI published a fact sheet on its website explaining the science and concluding that abortion did not increase the risk of breast cancer, before 2000, which was taken down after George W. Bush was elected U.S. president. A similar study early in 2003 reached the same conclusion.
Voice for Life Today
The national membership stands at 30,000 (as at September, 2003).
In 2004, the SPUC executive voted to change their name to "Voice for Life" so that they could speak out against euthanasia, research using embryonic stem cells, and cloning.
Voice for Life collaborates youth-based pro-life groups on workshops and outreaches. The new emphasis is disseminating online information through their website and social networking.
The current President of Voice for Life is Bernard Moran.
- "Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC)". spuc.org.uk. 2012. Retrieved 17 March 2012.
- Voice for Life, formerly SPUC - History. Accessed 2012-12-13.
- Wall v Linvingston  1 NZLR 734 (CA)
- Abortion - breast cancer link dismissed. Women's Health Action Trust of New Zealand. Accessed 2012-12-13.
- Marilyn Pryor, The Right to Live: The Abortion Battle of New Zealand Auckland: Haelen Books (1985) ISBN 0-908630-23-9