Family Planning Association (NZ)

In 1939 the Sex Hygiene and Birth Regulation Society was renamed the Family Planning Association. Its aims were to educate New Zealanders on the need for birth control and sex education, and to reduce family size.
  • FPA continues to be a major advocate for lowering the age to which sex education and contraceptive advice can be given to children.
  • FPA's response to NZ's rising abortion rates is to advocate more contraceptives, and sex education at increasingly lower ages.
  • FPA rejected a MoH booklet entitled "Considering an Abortion? What are your Options?" which they had helped develop, claiming the foetal photos were a distortion.
  • FPA NZ opposes legislation requiring parental notification, "Legislation must be relevant to the realities of 21st Century life and FPA will continue to work to ensure the rights of young people are protected,"
  • FPANZ works with IPPF to reduce high levels of population growth in Oceania & South East Asia.
In the early 1900s, New Zealand's public policy was strongly influenced by eugenic ideology (immigration restriction, sterilization, race segregation, selective breeding of superior stock, the biological threat of "inferior types," and the need for recording and controlling human heredity). Dr MacGregor, the Inspector of Hospitals blamed the welfare system for allowing "the unfit to breed". Dr W.A. Chapple and others called for compulsory sterilization of the "unfit."

Eugenics philosophy was the justification for the Mental Defectives Amendment Act 1928. The Act came short of banning marriage of "mental defectives" and this prohibition was severely criticised by what is now the Women's Division of Federated Farmers.

After WW II and the full horror of the Holocaust, the eugenics movement was discredited and it was "repackaged" so as to avoid the direct connection with birth control and the eugenics of the NAZI regime. (This repackaging was also evident in Margaret Sanger's policies on eugenics in her formation of International Planned Parenthood.)

Early Days
The 'Social Hygiene Society' was formed in Christchurch in 1916 and distributed pamphlets and books concerning venereal disease, which had become a problem with troops returning home. This was in opposition to the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) that promoted chastity and pure living.

In 1935 a meeting was called by Freda Cook and Elsie Freeman (Locke) that convened a birth control group, and 1936 saw the forming of the Sex Hygiene and Birth Regulation Society. Its aims were to educate New Zealanders on the need for birth control and sex education. One of their major aims was to reduce the size of families.

In 1939 the Sex Hygiene and Birth Regulation Society was renamed the Family Planning Association.

The FPA states "that during this era of unemployment, crowded housing, and malnutrition, another pregnancy could prove a disaster for a family. Many women were allegedly resorting to illegal abortions because they feared they could not cope with another child, and the death rate from "septic abortion" was high."

There is no supporting data offered, nor are there any accurate statistics from this era. This is similar to the situation in the US. See NARAL for more details.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into abortion in NZ, showed that between 1950 and 1976, there was an annual average of 16.6 admissions to hospitals for what are categorised as illegal abortions. The report goes on to note that:

"However, the numbers of spontaneous or unspecified abortions remained fairly constant in these years. This would suggest that the number of cases admitted to public hospitals for spontaneous or unspecified abortions, is not a reliable indication of the number of illegal abortions."

FPA open their first clinic in 1953. "The medical profession vehemently opposed the NZFPA which saw them as a lay organization interfering in medical matters. Eventually the Association was sanctioned by the medical profession, although it is now criticised by a new generation of feminists for being overly controlled by medical interests." ("Standing in the Sunshine." Sandra Coney. Penguin Books 1993)

The Mazengarb Inquiry (1954), and the passing of the 1954 Police Offences Amendment Bill, made it an offence "to provide children under 16 with contraceptives or information about contraception."

The FPA, which undertook to provide sex education in schools, urged a repeal of the legislation.

It was the threat of AIDS in the late-80's that finally convinced politicians the outdated legislation stood in the way of 'safe sex' public health programmes. Prompted by this and NZ's high teenage pregnancy rate, the Labour Government repealed Section 3 of the CS&A Act in 1990.

This made it possible for contraceptive advice, and abortions, to be given to minors without parental knowledge, thus making it the only medical procedure for a minor that can be authorised without consent of a parent or legal guardian.

Those lobbying for contraceptive and abortion reform, "...considered that the risk of some loss of innocence by the majority of school children was justified to protect a minority who were at risk of pregnancy, misery, and disease through ignorance." (Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry, Mar. 1977, p. 79)

As a matter of note, in 1974 there was estimated to be 134,299 girls in forms 1 to 7. That same year 899 girls (0.67 percent) under the age of 16 got pregnant. Because of this small number, the laws were changed and the other 99.33 percent were introduced to sex education and suffered the effects of "some loss of innocence." (as above)

According to the FPA website it survived through its own funding efforts until 1972. It subsequently received some government support and was able to gradually open more clinics throughout New Zealand. Today FPA operates 12 education centres and has 30 outreach/school clinics and 30 clinical centres.

The FPA website cites that it is "also known for its research, training of health professionals and development of award wining resources. The Association provides policy advice to government and advocates for comprehensive, age appropriate sexuality education in schools and easier access to contraception for all New Zealanders."

Sex Education
In 1976, IPPF set out a "Strategy of Legal Reform" - and "How FPAs are Interpreting It." It was clear from this that IPPF requires national FPAs to find sources of law and arguments upon which to base reforms, reforms not confined to family planning services.

Under the general heading of "the status of women," the reforms included women's rights to abortion, sterilization, tax reform, relaxed divorce and family laws, a lower age of consent for birth control services "to meet the needs of young people" and, of course, compulsory sex education.

FPA continues to be a major advocate for lowering the age to which sex education and contraceptive advice can be given to children.

FPA provides education programmes focusing on sexuality, relationships, peer support, etc... FPA has been presenting sexuality programmes for since the late-1970s in NZ, and training health and social workers, teachers and peer educators since the mid-1980s.

Of the 17,530 abortions performed in NZ in 2005, 26.2% of them (over 3810) were done on girls between the ages of 11-19.

Most girls/women who have an abortion do so because it was an "unplanned pregnancy."

Those opposed to abortion are quick to condemn FPA's response to NZ's rising abortion rates, which is, they say, to advocate more contraceptives, and sex education at increasingly lower ages. Yet, in a letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal, the medical director of Planned Parenthood Federation of America stated:

"More than three million unplanned pregnancies occur each year to American women; two-thirds of these are due to contraceptive failure". Dr Louise Tryer letter. Wall Street Journal 26 April 1991.

New Zealand now has one of the highest abortion rates and teenage pregnancy rates in the western world, increasing high rates of abortion, as well as sexually transmitted infections.

A 2002 United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) report shows New Zealand languishing at the bottom - after the United States and the United Kingdom - with the third highest teen birth rate among 28 rich nations.

Family planning advocates, including FPANZ, have been pressing for more government funding, arguing that abortion numbers will be brought down by improving sex education and making contraception more easily accessible. Their opponents accuse them of continuing with failed programmes.

Abortion Rights - Informed Consent
In line with IPPF policy FPA strongly supports the right of a woman, regardless of age, to consent to or refuse to consent to having an abortion, and believes that access to abortion services should be "free, legal, and safe."

In the mid-90s came concern about the accuracy and content of the information provided by counsellors attached to abortion clinics. In September 1998, the Ministry of Health published 25,000 copies of an 18-page booklet entitled "Considering an Abortion? What are your Options?"

A working party in Auckland had been commissioned to write the draft. The members were Dr John Taylor, who had recently retired after years as the chief operating surgeon at the Epsom Day abortion clinic, Dr Christine Roke, a senior official of the NZ FPA, and Annetta Moran, a secondary school teacher and a member of the national executive of SPUC.

The 25,000 booklets were sent to GPs around the country and the feedback indicated they were acceptable and proving useful.

However, FPA executive director Dr Gill Boddy-Greer (PhD), strongly objected to the (Nielsen) foetal photographs and said on a TV programme, the Holmes Show, that the photos were a distortion. Abortion opponents claimed that the photographs were denounced by the FPA because they (the photos) accurately portrayed the foetus to look 'human.'

The FPA returned their copies to the Ministry, as did counselling staff at abortion clinics around the country. The Ministry then declined to print further copies and has maintained this policy despite repeated requests.

Parental Notification
FPA NZ opposes legislation requiring parental notification.

The FPA, in its 2003 oral submission on the Care of Children Bill which was to update the Guardianship Act, was concerned about possible erosion to the, then, current rights. FPA also provided additional research documents stating that good parenting and adoption has nothing to do with one's sexual orientation, and that diversity should be recognised and supported.

The law currently allows a child to receive confidential health services including contraception, and the Guardianship Act allows a young woman under the age of 16 to decide to have an abortion without her parents' consent or knowledge, if she is judged competent. This was upheld in the Care of Children Act 2004.

"While we recognise the contentiousness of this," said FPA executive director Dr Gill Boddy-Greer (PhD), "and the need to balance parental concerns and rights, and those of young people, we would be most concerned to see these rights taken away after many years."

"Legislation must be relevant to the realities of 21st Century life and FPA will continue to work to ensure the rights of young people are protected," Dr Greer said, "while encouraging them to be responsible and respect themselves and each other."

Natural Fertility NZ
Natural Fertility NZ and Family Planning NZ have signed a memorandum of understanding that sees the two organisations working together in areas of common interest. The two organisations have formalised a working relationship that will include staff training and information sharing.

FPA Executive Director, Gill Boddy-Greer, said it made sense for the two organisations to work together - particularly in the area of reproductive health education where both Family Planning and Natural Fertility have a key role to play.

"It's sensible to share resources where possible and collaborate on new information and research. Staff training opportunities will be explored too," Dr Greer said. "Both organisations are working to ensure New Zealanders have the information they need to make informed choices about their sexual and reproductive health - and while the services we each offer differ - our collaboration on these issues can only benefit our clients.

Natural Fertility Chief Executive, Judith Soper, said there were occasions when there was a cross-over of clients seeking fertility information - and the staff of the two organisations would continue to ensure clients were put in touch with the organisation that best suited their requirements.

"We know our education services are used by a range of New Zealanders, including couples in long-term relationships who are planning to start a family - or wanting to use natural fertility methods to manage the spacing of their children. For other reproductive health services and information, we refer people to FPA," Ms Soper said.

As part of the overall IPPF movement FPANZ still works to reduce the birth rate. The internationally accepted replacement rate is 2.1 births per woman. The current rate in NZ has risen from a low of 1.8, to 2.01 at the end of the June 2004 year.

On the international scene FPA works with the IPPF in order to advocate and provide sex and reproductive health services. The following extract is from the IPPF website (posted 21 Aug, 2003):

"The [Pacific Voices] workshop, organised by New Zealand Family Planning Association International Development (FPAID), is sponsored by the International Planned Parenthood Federation and Population Action International.

Activities will include learning how to: develop an advocacy strategy to address the growing prevalence of HIV/AIDS; promote specific issues at United Nations conferences; work with church and community groups to raise awareness of sexual and reproductive health issues; work with the media; and influence key policy and decision makers. Presenters will include radio and television personality Stacey Daniels in her role as United Nations Face-To-Face Campaign Spokesperson.

New Zealand FPA Executive Director, Dr Gill Greer, said greater commitment to family planning and reproductive health programmes is needed in developing countries to slow population growth, improve maternal and child health, and protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS.

"We know from the rest of the world's experience that countries that been most successful in reducing poverty have also done the most in reducing high levels of population growth by meeting reproductive health needs." (IPPF website, news reports - 21 Aug'03)

FPAID receives funding from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation which enables them to continue "to develop international projects and raise awareness in relation to the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals."

Many private Foundations support population control through contraceptive and abortion programmes such as those developed and used by FPA.