Report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Various Aspects of the Problem of Abortion in NewZealand Part 4

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(2) That the recruits be guaranteed continuity of employment and remuneration as long as their service was satisfactory;

(3) That they undergo whatever training is considered desirable at technical school or otherwise;

(4) That they agree to perform service wherever required by the Domestic Service Department, which Department shall ensure that the living and working conditions are up to standard;

(5) That the service be made available to all women, and that first consideration be given to expectant mothers, mothers convalescent after childbirth, and mothers who have young families, and that the service be either free or charged for according to the circ.u.mstances of each case.

Again, realizing the fact that many of the considerations involved in this question of domestic help are beyond the scope of this Committee, we recommend that a full investigation should be made of the whole matter.

_Obstetrical Aid._–As for obstetrical help, we believe that the position is in the main adequate and good.

As far as the larger centres are concerned, no woman, however poor her circ.u.mstances, need lack complete ante-natal supervision, for which no charge is made, and proper confinement care, at most moderate cost, in the St. Helens Hospitals or the various maternity annexes of the public hospitals; where the mother is actually indigent, free provision is available through the Hospital Boards or St. Helens Hospitals.

The country mother in certain districts is, however, much less well placed, although the Health Department through its district nurses, maternity annexes, and subsidized small country hospitals is trying to meet the need.

We commend all possible efforts in this direction, and suggest that transport difficulties as they affect the country mother be given special consideration.

To a certain extent transport difficulties can be eliminated by making more use of public hospitals nearest to the patient’s residence, or of private maternity hospitals subsidized by the Hospital Board of the district.

Certain general criticisms of the maternity services are elsewhere discussed and certain recommendations are made.

It is in respect of overburdened and debilitated women of those cla.s.ses who are not in a position to obtain it privately that we have suggested that the State might make provision for birth-control advice.

It is for such mothers especially that we have recommended the establishment of birth-control clinics in connection with our public hospitals.

We realize, however, that genuine economic hardship is not confined to the unemployed, the wives of struggling farmers, and those on the lowest wage-levels; relative to their own circ.u.mstances and responsibilities, the difficulties of many women whose husbands are in the lower-salaried groups, or in small businesses, for instance, are just as anxious. For these we should also advocate the extension of the maternity allowance and such further direct financial encouragement of the family as can be devised.

Here, too, is the definite need for domestic help–possibly on a subsidized plan.

Many of these women prefer to make their own private arrangements for their confinements, and to enable them to do so we suggest that further a.s.sistance might be given by the provision of more maternity hospitals of the intermediate type, in which these mothers may have all adequate facilities with the right of attendance by their own doctors. Here, too, we believe that proper knowledge of child s.p.a.cing is most desirable, though we consider that this is a matter for private arrangement.

(2) REMOVAL OF FEAR OF CHILDBIRTH.

It has been indicated that whereas the majority of witnesses expressed the opinion that the fear of pregnancy and labour played little part in the demand for abortion, and that the majority of women were satisfied with the help and relief which they received at the time of their confinement, yet there were some witnesses who held very strongly that inadequate pain relief and lack of sympathetic understanding of the individual on the part of the attendants were factors of considerable importance.

We believe that these complaints are, as far as the maternity services in general are concerned, entirely unjustified.

Taken as a whole, there is probably a more general use of pain-relieving measures in New Zealand to-day than anywhere else in the world.

Nevertheless, while commending what has already been done, we trust that every endeavour will be made by the Health Department, the doctors of the Dominion, and those responsible for the management of our maternity hospitals to do everything possible to extend these pain-relieving measures within the limits of safety, and to encourage that sympathetic consideration of the individual which is so desirable.

While deprecating certain attacks which have been made on the St.

Helens Hospitals, and appreciating the fact that there are other considerations involved besides the relieving of pain, we feel sure that the Health Department will investigate the possibility of improving the services rendered by these Hospitals by the introduction of resident medical officers.

We agree with one witness who expressed the opinion that too much had been done in the past in the way of publishing the risks of maternity.

We feel that there are real grounds for confidence in the obstetrical services of the Dominion and that any fear of pregnancy which does exist would be largely removed if the public were made aware that New Zealand now has a very low death-rate in actual childbirth, that relief in labour is largely used, and that further developments in this direction are continually being investigated.

(3) CONTROL OF ABORTION AMONGST THE UNMARRIED.

The evidence before the Committee indicates that, while this is not the major problem, it is, nevertheless, an important one.

Obviously, the main cause is a looseness of the moral standard, and the remedy must be educational.

It is not the province, nor is it within the capacity of this Committee, to make detailed recommendations on this matter, but we would urge upon all those concerned–the educational authorities, religious bodies, the various youth movements and women’s organisations, and individual parents–the importance of enlightened education of the young in the matter of s.e.x problems.

One factor of great importance we believe to be the widespread use of contraceptives amongst the unmarried.

It might, at first thought, seem likely that the use of contraceptives, however reprehensible, would tend to diminish the incidence of abortion.

But we believe that actually this is not the case: there is reason to think that many young women, relying on undependable methods of prevention, are tempted, and then, finding themselves in misfortune, resort to some method of abortion.

It is our opinion that not only is immorality encouraged by the indiscriminate sale of contraceptives, but, indirectly, criminal abortion has increased amongst the young.

For these reasons above all we are convinced that there should be a determined effort to suppress the indiscriminate sale of contraceptives.

While realizing the great practical difficulties, we believe that much could be done.

In particular, we believe that some effective measures could be devised to control the distribution of that type of contraceptive which is mainly used in these circ.u.mstances.

We recommend the consideration of the licensing of the importation of certain contraceptive goods.

We urge that the sale or distribution of contraceptives should be restricted entirely to registered practising chemists, doctors, hospital departments or clinics, and that their sale by other persons should be illegal and subject to severe penalty.

Evidence placed before the Committee showed that, a profit up to 300 per cent. was being made on contraceptive appliances.

We recommend that the restriction on the advertis.e.m.e.nt of contraceptives should be more rigidly enforced, and particularly that the promiscuous advertis.e.m.e.nt and sale of contraceptives by “mail order” agencies should be made illegal.

We recommend that it should be made unlawful to supply contraceptives to young persons.

Difficulties and possibilities of evasion are of course obvious, but, nevertheless, similar restrictions have been applied with at least some measure of success in other directions.

We would also appeal to the Pharmaceutical Society and to the individual chemists, since the responsibility rests so largely with them, to co-operate most earnestly in this matter.

With regard to abortifacients, the recommendations we later make apply with even greater force to unmarried women.

Several witnesses, speaking on behalf of women’s organizations, advocated the introduction of women police for the guidance and protection of the young in places of public resort.

Reference to the effect of alcohol on moral restraint has already been made.

The second big consideration is the care of the unmarried woman who is in trouble.

It has been suggested that if there were a more tolerant att.i.tude towards such girls many who now resort to abortion would be prepared to go forward and face the future.

As one witness stated:–

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