Opponents of abortion get organized

By the late 1960s, it was clear that abortion might soon be legalised along the lines of the 1967 British Abortion Act.

Two Auckland-based specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology, Dr Pat Dunn and Professor Sir William Liley, were alarmed by developments in Britain. They noted that many more abortions were now being performed in public hospitals. Some of their colleagues were involved, and openly supportive of abortion law reform.

In 1963, Sir William had pioneered a technique for carrying out blood transfusions on unborn children, their lives in danger because of rH incompatibility with their mothers. The November 1963 edition of the British Medical Journal, carried Sir William's report of a medical breakthrough - the first time an unborn child had been successfully treated as a patient.

National Women's Hospital became internationally famous, the medical speciality of perinatology was established and Sir William Liley dubbed the "Father of Foetology".

Dr Pat Dunn was a devout Catholic, Sir William a professed agnostic. He was in awe of the wonders of human development from conception to birth and this enthusiasm, combined with his personal charm and medical prestige, made him a credible advocate.

Together they inspired thousands of New Zealander to join the pro-life movement. They also provided professional medical assurance that abortion involved the killing of an individual human person - however small at that stage.