‘The Thief…’: Investigating PND

So I spent a good chunk of 2016 working on a series of articles about postnatal depression (aka postnatal distress), which finally went ‘live’ at Scoop.co.nz on Friday 21 October. The research and writing were funded by the Scoop Foundation for Public Interest Journalism. (Thanks!) You can support the Scoop Foundation’s efforts here.

Here are links to the articles, anyways:

  1. The Thief that Steals Motherhood
  2. But I’m not Depressed
  3. Finding Someone Who ‘Gets It’
  4. Quick Facts and Links
  5. Rough-cut audio of women telling their stories

And there was an interview with Kim Hill on RNZ, Saturday 22 October.

Thanks so much to the women to talked to me about their experiences. I’m very grateful. And everyone else who helped in lots of ways. It’s a big complicated important (I think) issue that remains (like so much to do with women’s reproductive lives) stigmatised and hidden. I know there are a lot of people doing a lot of great work, some of it funded by the public health system, a lot of it not.

There were lots of ‘take-aways’ for me from all this. One was: there are undoubtedly a lot of women out there suffering from what can be a very scary illness who aren’t getting help — help that could really go a long way toward getting them well. Another was: getting help can be a bit of a crap-shoot, depending on where you live, who your midwife or Plunket/Tamariki Ora nurse is, how confident you are about asking for help, how confident your whānau is about asking for help — or even realising you might need it…and so on and so on…

But PND is coming out into the open, thanks to the mums and the people who are their champions. Kia kaha!


Fighting to Choose: All the Reviews

I’ve pretty much recovered from the 2013 Prochoice Highway tour, phew! And all the reviews my book, Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand, is going to get are probably in, so FIghting to choose picI thought I’d close out  posts about the book with the complete (so far as I know) list of and links to all the reviews, starting with the most recent (and most negative), in the Listener. (Must say, I was pretty pleased to get a review there, bad or not! And, see, I am resisting  carping about it…just!)


Political Science (66) 1, 2014. (links to pdf) Reviewed by Jennifer Curtin.

January 18, 2014, Listener, (links to pdf) Reviewed by Rosemary McLeod (There were a couple of follow-up letters that took issue with Rosemary’s review.)

Redline: Contemporary Marxist Analysis. 4 December 2013. Reviewed by Daphna Whitmore

Women’s Studies Journal (NZ), 2013, 27:1. (Links to pdf) Reviewed by Linda Bryder.

October 2013, Pacific Journalism Review, 19 (2), (Links to pdf) Old Abortion Law Still Holds Sway, Reviewed by Sue Kedgley.

October 19, Otago Daily Times:  Abortion Rights Struggle Makes Compelling Read, by Elspeth McLean

September 2013:  (links to pdf) Journal of Primary Healthcare, Vol 5, No 3, Sept 2013, by Dr. Carol Shand

August 16: Online in the Nelson Mail, by Sarah Dunn.

July 2. Scoop Review of Books, by Megan Whelan

June 25. The International Socialist Organisation of Aotearoa/New Zealand, by Shomi Yoon.

May 23. At the Booksellers New Zealand Blog, by Nikki Whyte.

May 9. At Ideologically Impure, by Queen of Thorns.

The Book and the Highway

cover-jpeg-mediumOff to Wellington today for the Women’s Studies Association conference this weekend, where I will be talking about and selling (early, because the book launch isn’t till May Day) my new book, Fighting to Choose, and introducing people to the Prochoice Highway, which is a books-cum-spread-the-word project I’m doing this year in conjunction with a few cool people including ALRANZ. Also, the ALRANZ AGM is on Tuesday 30 April,  in Wellington. It’s members only, but if you need info, write to ALRANZ at safeandlegal[at]gmail.com And, yes, on May Day the book is officially being launched. Write to me if you want venue etc. details! Meanwhile, I’m on Saturday with Kim Hill tomorrow morning to talk about the book. More updates to come…

More Writing: Joe Harawira; Women’s Rights; Books

I first saw Joe Harawira speaking last year at the CTU-Iwi leaders hui in Tauranga. He seemed such a quiet, unassuming man, but the story of his struggle, along with fellow former Whakatane timber mill industry workers (SWAP, or Sawmill Workers Against Poisons), was quite mind blowing. It took them decades to win recognition for their claim that their exposure to PCP (pentachlorophenol) in the timber mills was causing some pretty severe health problems. In addition, that the poison-laced waste used as landfill (often around marae) was an environmental problem.

12305714041500807562choochus_Wolf_Head_Howl_1.svg.medI kept meaning to contact Joe — since I live not too far from Whakatane, in the Bay of Plenty — and catch up on where he and the former mill workers were at, how the clean-up was going and were their health issues being resolved, something I finally did this March. He came to my place, managing to drive himself here despite having an arm that doesn’t work too well — one of the many health problems he himself has developed. (He’s 67 now.)

And, yes, he is a quiet, unassuming man. (I asked him about that: he said, well, if he’d seen me “30 years ago, probably 20 years of those 30 years, I would probably cut your neck off out there. We were shocking, but after thinking about it now, we needed to go down that track.”) We talked for an hour and a half or so, and I wrote up a wee piece for Werewolf.co.nz, Toxins in the Timber Mills. The full story of Joe and SWAP has been told elsewhere, including in a documentary called The Green Chain that was shown on Māori TV in 2011. (There’s a link to that in the Werewolf piece.)

In the wake of the Pike River mining disaster, and the calls that followed for more oversight and better regulation, it struck me while listening to Joe that his story had a lot in common with other community-level struggles I’ve heard about over the past year or so — like the Waihi residents battling plans to mine under their town; and the iwi challenging the Port of Tauranga’s expansion plans, to mention just two.  They share that sense of being powerless in the face of business interests, who usually also win over public sentiment by talking about how many jobs their project will create. (Sometimes that’s true; sometimes it’s not. But the ‘economic growth’ at any cost has been widely seen as contributing to what happened at Pike River.) It’s nigh on impossible, for example, to conclusively prove links between things like chemical exposure and health problems (think agent orange or dioxin in Taranaki), and when you’re a group of blue-collar workers — well, good luck with that. Similarly, in all the RMA hearings over mining, the local groups are up against well-resourced companies with experts on tap and reports that a lay person can barely make head nor tail of. True, the residents are supposed to have moderately well-resourced local government looking out for their interests, but ask the Waihi residents what they think about that. Whoa! A lot of them actually see the council as the biggest problem,  not the mining company.

Among other things, the RMA is supposed to even the playing field a little bit. But most everyone has bought into that “there’s too much red tape” and “decisions take too long” narrative, hence the current legislation that’s designed to speed up some of the decision making. Sounds innocent enough, but unless a lot more effort is put into actually listening to and acting on the concerns of the people on the ground, there are surely more costly clean-ups in our future (be they health or environmental).

Other Recent Stuff

I had a much more in-depth piece in the Werewolf before (27 February 2013) about Policing Pregnancy, (I’m convinced the official and unofficial surveillance of pregnancy is a human rights issue that should be on more people’s radars) and some more book reviews up at The New York Times in February. Also, at The Hand Mirror, UN ‘Family’ Resolution Raises Concern, (20 March 2013) looks at a proposed UN Human Rights Council Resolution on “Protection of the Family”, and the potential  impact it could have not just on reproductive health and rights, but on those of LGBTI people; while in  ‘Careless Driving Causing Death’, (4 March 2013) I report on a case before the courts in Wellington in which a husband has been charged with careless driving causing death after a relatively minor accident that apparently led to the death of his wife’s 31-week fetus. A heart-breaking case in every possible way!

Defend Family Planning, Again

The Sunday Star Times (see 1 Feb update at the end of this post) has a piece today on Right to Life’s attack on Family Planning’s charitable status, something I blogged about a couple of weeks ago over at The Hand Mirror in a post titled  Defend Family Planning. It’s good to see some serious reporting of the constant attacks being lobbed at organisations like Family Planning LogoFamily Planning, doctors, screening programmes, etc. etc. by Ken Orr et al., and the SST’s Marika Hill has been doing some great work on that score. Which of course means that Ken has probably already written and posted a complaint to the newspaper with a Press Council follow-up waiting in the wings. Orr is one of the most prolific letter-to-the-ed writers, OIA requesters, complaint writers in the country. Nary a news report touching on reproductive health care goes by without it sparking a bit of outrage. And some of the outbursts would be mostly entertaining, as I wrote in the “Defend FP” post were it not for the chilling effect this has on orgs like FP. Which is just what Family Planning’s Chief Executive Jackie Edmond said in that SST article:

“The biggest concern for me is it makes people nervous to address the real issues because a small number of people are very vocal,” Edmond said. “It makes government officials nervous about moving positively forward on things like abortion law reform.”


The campaign to defund Family Planning, which started here in around 2010, never really took off like its Defund Planned Parenthood counterpart in the U.S., but FP’s recent tentative  yet welcome comments about the need for abortion law reform  have renewed at least Right to Life’s enthusiasm for another go.

I doubt it will fly for lots of reasons including that FP doesn’t perform any abortions (unlike Planned Parenthood), though does act as a point of contact and referral organisation. The antis are funny about funding abortion. On one hand, they are outraged that taxpayers money is spent on abortion (here, of course, abortion is largely taxpayer funded, unlike in the U.S.) and on the other, they are horrified if the private sector gets involved, because then that’s profiting from abortion.

The charitable status attack won’t fly either because, let’s face it, FP has hardly been indulging in scads of advocacy around law reform. And no doubt for precisely the reason that it attracts this kind of spluttering from the anti-abortion people. As Red Queen pointed out, if they go after FP, we should go after all Family First, Family  Life International NZ, etc., also charities, who are campaigning like mad against actual proposed legislation (as opposed to a not actual bill to decriminalise abortion). As ALRANZ’s Morgan Healey pointed out, this just gets tiresome.

**UPDATE 1 Feb 2012. The tut-tutting and faux outrage that came piling down on SST journalist Marika Hill’s head after her story appeared begged for another wee bit of blogging, which I did over at THM under the heading “‘Truth’ In the Abortion Debate” — as in, there really isn’t much when it comes to how anti-abortionists are covered in the media, but they scream like mad if anyone, like Hill, gets close.