Sunday, 22 May 2011

SST's illusion of objectivity

If there's a newspaper article discussing politician plans to limit access to abortion - by introducing a requirement that parents consent - then shouldn't that article tell us what views the named politicians might hold on the issue?

Otherwise we have the illusion of neutrality.

So well done SST, for giving us Judith Collins history on this issue. She tried to introduce a similar bill in 2004 which was not supported by the College of General Practitioners or the Medical Council or enough MPs to pass.

Not such a good mark on the second MP they quote however:

Finance Minister Bill English supported the amendment. "If a school doctor wants to give a pupil a Panadol, they have to tell parents ... It is time to swing the pendulum back in favour of parents," he said then. "Where there are significant events affecting children, and real risks to their welfare, parents should be involved.

"The idea that the law allows your 12 to 14-year-old daughter to have an abortion on her own and go back to school is repugnant."

When it comes to abortion, every media article that quotes Bill English should inform readers that his wife, Dr Mary English, actively campaigns against abortion.

We should also always be informed that Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child considers Bill "strongly anti-abortion."

As Minister of Health in the mid 1990s, he even supported SPUC in producing a booklet, with taxpayer money, on "options around abortion" that clinics and Family Planning clinics refused to use.

Bill English's views on abortion have been quietly erased from the general public's viewing for a few years now, presumably to make him more palatable to the many people in Aotearoa who consider access to control over conception and child-bearing a fundamental human right.

The media should not be helping National with this public relations campaign. That's not their job.


Boganette said...

Great post. I think it's fairly obvious that the journalist went and got quotes from MPs who are anti-choice. It looks to me like a fairly standard rent-a-quote situation. The original story was nothing more than manufactured outrage. And this follow-up seems like they're STILL trying to make-out like this is actually an issue. When it really, really isn't. And in order to do that they get two MPs who are anti-choice.

English and Collins aren't just against the current parental notification laws - they're against rights for women in terms of abortion FULL STOP.

It's ridiculous. Thanks for this post. Oh and by the way - isn't it Sunday Star Times not the NZ Herald?

Lindsay Mitchell said...

The issue was hijacked by the anti-abortionists on talkback.

The last time the age of consent came up under the Care of Children 2004 bill, select committee Labour and the Greens supported the status quo. I believe ACT may have also. National, NZ First and UF wanted it changed, which would mean compulsory notification to the parent/caregiver. Certainly I heard ACT MP Heather Roy supporting the rights of the pregnant girl on radio Friday. So if National have another go at changing a law which has existed since 1977 they may not get it all their way.

The law as it stands positively protects in a small number of situations. What the questionmark should focus on is whether some teenagers are using the law to repeatedly act irresponsibly and secretively which is in nobody's interests.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Lindsay, the problem here is clearly that some teenagers are just irresponsible sluts getting pregnant on purpose for shits and giggles who need a Short Sharp Shock.

Oh, wait. My logic gland just kicked in and pointed out that teens who need to get multiple abortions without parental notification are probably living in pretty fucking awful situations and might deserve our compassion more than our authoritarian finger-waving.

Nicholas O'Kane said...

"The idea that the law allows your 12 to 14-year-old daughter to have an abortion on her own and go back to school is repugnant." To me this makes it pretty clear where Bill English stands on this issue. I'm not so sure about mentioning Mary English's views as I know people who have boyfirend/girlfiend or even married relationships with people of different political views (while there is no difference here if Bill English was pro-choice should Mary English's views still be mentioned?) and it also appears to be bringing a politicians family in for the debate.

I wholeheartedly agree a pro-choice politician should have been interviewed (maybe Steve Chadwick) and quoted to give the story balance

LudditeJourno said...

Oh yes Boganette, ta, you're quite right, I'm dissing the wrong paper :-) thank you and duly corrected I hope.

Psycho Milt said...

On the plus side, at least we now have an answer to Julie's questions from last week:

What is the "new" angle for this story? Is there suddenly a Bill in the ballot to require parental notification? Is it a new situation, that wasn't already happening? The answer to the latter two questions is surely no, so why is it getting reported at all, especially so high up the news agenda?

The answer:

Collins said she would support a private member's bill requiring parents to be involved before a termination could take place.

There's the agenda, they haven't even bothered being subtle about it.

AnneE said...

Well done, I logged in to write something but you've done it splendidly. I remember the furore over That Pamphlet very well. There was in fact another piece INSIDE the paper quoting counsellors and other health professionals on why privacy has to be protected - but this was so well separated from the front-page piece that many readers nmight have missed it.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

Ideologicallyimpure, You may have misunderstood my comment, "The law as it stands positively protects in a small number of situations." I didn't intend that to mean a small percentage, but that the number of abortions in the relevant group is not that large and I suspect warrant the individual's ability to give her own concent. The report from the select committee said there was no evidence at that time of the law being abused.

LudditeJourno said...

Hey Psycho Milt - yep, there's no doubting the agenda alright. Chip away at access to abortion. Full stop. That's why people's views need to be made explicit in coverage.

Deep said...

We shouldn't assume that Bill English's views are the same his wife's. It's possible that he doesn't share her stance on abortion. If he was a female politician it would be sexist to constantly mention her husband's views with the assumption that her views were identical. It may not be sexist towards Bill to do so but it probably is sexist to Mary.

Boganette said...

"It's possible that he doesn't share her stance on abortion".

Ummm except that he does. Are we conveniently forgetting that Bill English is openly anti-choice?

Flynn said...

There's a pretty good article from Deborah Coddington that stands up for the teens side of things here

So there is some actual balance, for once.

Anonymous said...

No Lindsay, I didn't "misunderstand" your comment. I understood your desire to ignore the actual issues and try to play the "evil teenage slut!!!!" strawperson argument perfectly.

Julie said...

Thanks for this LuddsyJ, I can't understand why the SST seems to have a bit of an anti-abortion jag on at the moment, with some really awful coverage. Not giving English's quotes their full context, repeatedly quoting the really pointless 11-19 yo figure (is anyone suggesting that 18 & 19 yos need parental involvement? Not that I've seen. I haven't even seen it suggested for 17 yos, and 16 yos seem to be borderline).

However I would like to express some caution about the Dr Mary English line. I guess this is partly self-interest, as I am the partner of someone who may become an MP shortly. And it would be unwise for people to automatically assume we share exactly the same views, or even necessarily the same solutions to problems we agree on. That said, Bill English's past words and actions clearly show he does agree with SPUC, RFL, and that group of doctors who are fighting the Medical Council guidelines so they don't have to even say the A word to their patients (and yes the latter does include Dr Mary English, and I wouldn't be surprised if she is a member of the former groups too).

Lindsay, I think it might help if you were a bit more explicit in your view on parental notification here, or linked to a post of your own where you have done so. I read your first comment as being generally agin parental notification and for abortion access, but it seems others have not and looking back I may be reading in stuff, and we all know I have a trackrecord of being too optimistic sometimes! Thanks.

Deep said...

If we know Bill is anti-choice then isn't it more important to point that out than the fact that his wife is?

LudditeJourno said...

Mmm, I see the idea that Dr Mary English's views and activism on abortion are important in analysing Bill English's views does not sit well with everyone.
And I'm certainly not suggesting couples are "hive minds" about politics.
I think in this particular case though, because of what her activism looks like, and what his support of those very same pieces of activism looks like, for me, it is important that link is made.
I don't think I'm being sexist here. I'm certainly not assuming Dr Mary English hasn't made her own mind up about abortion. I guess I am assuming that they are likely to be discussing tactics and legislative opportunities for those groups which oppose access to, and information about, abortion being available to anyone who has an unwanted pregnancy.
And perhaps I'm wrong about that...