'I died inside': Woman holds back tears in abortion law submission

A woman held back tears while submitting on proposed abortion law changes, urging MPs to ensure pregnant women have access to all the information they need. 

Liri Kazazi told the Abortion Legislation Committee she was 17 years old when she had an abortion at a clinic in Wellington in 1981 - and regrets it to this day. 

"I did not know what abortion would be like - how easy it would be to get, how devastating it would be," she told the committee. "When my baby died, I died inside too."

Kazazi said she did not receive enough information to make an informed decision when she went to the abortion clinic as a teenager and is urging the committee to impose a mandatory counselling and stand-down period. 

"I believe that the first step a woman makes to reach out for some help... there needs to be some good support right at the get-go and that there be good consultation... and that be away from the abortion clinic."

Kazazi said her child would be 38 today, and she often wonders what he or she would be like as a person. 

"My mind cracked, while the gravity of what I had done overwhelmed me," she said, reflecting on the day she had the abortion. 

"My baby did not have the ability to speak for his or her right to keep living. In turn, I lost my voice too... I became very depressed, anxious, timid, traumatised."

Kazazi said she "entered into uninformed consent" and experienced a "lack of transparency from the GP to the abortion clinic". 

Liri Kazazi at the Abortion Legislation Select Committee.
Liri Kazazi at the Abortion Legislation Select Committee. Photo credit: Facebook / Abortion Legislation Committee

"The word foetus was used, instead of a person or child developing - no pictures showing development at that point, no alternatives to abortion were presented, nor questions to establish my state of mind in the situation."

She said the statement she made at the abortion clinic, "I don't think I can handle being a parent", should have been "unpacked" with alternatives offered such as adoption. 

"At the abortion clinic, after I had blacked out, I'd been given a sedative. Later I was shaken awake, but I didn't want to wake."

ACT leader David Seymour said it was clear that "at a time when you really needed help and support, you didn't get it, and I think everyone here in this committee would agree across political lines that it's extremely regrettable". 

He asked Kazazi for suggestions on how the current legislation should be changed so that it might eliminate the possibility of other women having experiences like hers. 

"There needs to be some good support right from the get-go, and that there be good consultation in all different forms and that be away from the abortion clinic," Kazazi replied. 

ACT leader David Seymour, a member of the Abortion Legislation Committee.
ACT leader David Seymour, a member of the Abortion Legislation Committee. Photo credit: Facebook / Abortion Legislation Committee

Her submission was in contrast to previous submitters from the Abortion Providers Group, who don't agree with the legislations requirement that women need a doctor's approval if she is more than 20 weeks pregnant. 

"The reason why we don't think there should be a limit is because it places a GP in a situation where they make a decision on someone else's care," Dr Helen Paterson, a gynaecologist, told the committee. 

"If we want to improve gender equity, we should work towards autonomy, and this doesn't fit with that."

Dr Robin Briant, who has worked in Family Planning and in conflict zones overseas, also urged the committee not to "introduce processes to make abortion more difficult". 

She said her experience of providing abortions was that it was "almost exclusively of people anxious to have their procedure done, anxious right up to it, and extremely relieved afterwards". 

"I know many people who have had terminations, and I know none who have been severely damaged by it, or even particularly damaged."

As it currently stands, women have to use a loophole to get an abortion in New Zealand, by getting two doctors to agree the pregnancy would put her in physical or mental danger. 

Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced legislation in August to bring abortion out of the Crimes Act with a health-based approach. 

The legislation passed its first reading in Parliament in August as a conscience vote for MPs, with 94 votes in favour and 23 against.