How the NZ Royal Commission saw the Unborn Child

The 1977 Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion saw the unborn child, as "one of the weakest, the most vulnerable, and most defenceless forms of humanity, should receive protection."
  • It accepted the biological evidence establishing that life begins at conception. 
  • The Commission said the child from implantation has a status which entitles it to preservation and protection.
  • "The terms 'embryo' and 'fetus' do no more than mark those stages in a progressive development."
  • The Commission said the right to life is a sacred principle of civilisation.
  • "It is an indispensable guarantee of the individual worth of the persons within it. Its universal denial would fail to recognise the dignity of man.
"The unborn child, as one of the weakest, the most vulnerable, and most defenceless forms of humanity, should receive protection, " the Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion declared in its 1977 Report.

It accepted the biological evidence establishing that life begins at conception.

But it said that external proof of pregnancy dates only from implantation (when the newly-conceived child implants in the wall of the womb, several days after conception).

"Before that stage is reached, it would be virtually impossible to prove that an act was done, with intent to procure a miscarriage, unless there was some evidence that there was something to miscarry."

For this reason, the Commission said the child from implantation has a status which entitles it to preservation and protection.

From implantation to birth, the Report said, the changes in the unborn child are of a developmental nature only.

"The three events suggested as being of significance, namely, quickening, viability and brain development, are no more than stages in that development and are not indicative of any qualitative changes in the developing fetus which would make it non-human at one point of time and human at another.

"There is no point between implantation and birth which enables a particular point of time to be accepted as the one at which the status of the unborn child is changed."

"The terms 'embryo' and 'fetus' do no more than mark those stages in a progressive development."

The Report said any moral code should accept that society recognises the undesirability of children being born into a deprived state. The Royal Commission also indicated that a child's life should not be taken in its unborn state merely because ideal conditions, for its upbringing in its born state, may be unattainable.

"Many well-adjusted people have been born and reared in circumstances of social deprivation. History itself is a record of the success of people of poor circumstances."

The Royal Commission said the right to life is a sacred principle of civilisation.

"It is an indispensable guarantee of the individual worth of the persons within it. Its universal denial would fail to recognise the dignity of man.

"A similar tradition, primarily Christian in origin, exists with regard to the unborn child," the commission added.

The Royal Commission recommended against a rape and incest exception since it considered that the likelihood of false reports and the difficulty of checking them would render the exception utterly meaningless.

Source: Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Contraception, Sterilization and Abortion. New Zealand, 1977