Families Call for Parental Notification Laws

Media Release 27 August 2015
Family First NZ is calling on politicians to reflect the concerns and wishes of families and ensure that young pregnant girls in a crisis situation receive the family support they deserve and need.

A petition is being presented to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee today by Stratford mother Hillary Kieft whose teenager daughter attempted suicide after a secret abortion organised by the local school. A law change – called Hillary’s Law (www.hillaryslaw.org.nz) – is being asked for.

“The law currently means that while a parent has to sign a letter to give permission for their daughter to go on a school trip to the zoo or to play in the netball team or have Panadol, they can be totally excluded from any knowledge regarding that same child being put on the pill or having an abortion,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“Ironically, if there is a complication from the abortion, the parent’s consent is then required for further treatment. A recent research paper argued that most female adolescents only start to acquire sufficient autonomous capacity from the age of 14 years and as such the legislative wording of the current law is problematic and arguably careless.”

The Family Planning Association has admitted that up to 1,000 young teenage girls have been taken for an abortion without their parents knowledge since 2004, when a change to the law was rejected by Parliament. The admission was made by the Family Planning Chief Executive Jackie Edmond in an interview with Paul Henry recently. She cited a study that suggested that around 25% of schoolgirls who have had an abortion in New Zealand don’t tell their parents they have had one.

Family First has been contacted by a number of families who have been adversely impacted by the law. Concern has also been expressed by health professionals, teachers, and social workers.

The current law is also out of step with the wishes of New Zealanders. A 2010 independent poll of 1,000 people by Curia Market Research found that four out of five people supported parental notification laws.

In a similar independent poll in 2012, teenagers (aged 15-21) were asked “Provided it won’t put the girl in physical danger, should parents be told if their school-age daughter is pregnant and considering getting an abortion?” Almost 2 out of 3 young respondents thought the parents should be told. 34% disagreed. More young men than women agreed, but both had majority agreement.

Family First is calling for the law to be amended to allow for parental notification in all cases of medical advice, prescriptions and procedures unless it can be proved to a Family Court that it would place the child at extreme risk.

“Politicians concerned about the welfare of young teenagers in a vulnerable and difficult situation should support family involvement,” says Mr McCoskrie.
ENDS