‘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!


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.

Delusions of Grandeur

I started writing something about gun violence in the U.S. back in July, just after Aurora. It was going to be a BOP Times column...and I kept working on the piece over the months, then Sandy Hook happened. And I got let go from the paper. But still, I was fiddling around with the piece. I thought about making it my first post as a regular contributor at the feminist blog The Hand Mirror but somehow it didn’t seem to fit — and I have some other stuff in the hopper. So … it’s here, just because:

Delusions of Grandeur

The Sandy Hook shooting in the U.S. last month brought Columbine back to me. The “Batman” massacre in Aurora, Colorado, did too. I was a staff editor at The Denver Post when Colorado came under fire from its own residents. Actually, I was sitting in a philosophy class (studying by day, working by night) when the buzz started. “Something’s going on.” Sounds of people running along corridors. Loud talking. “What’s happened?” As always, nothing was clear at first, but I raced into work and, didn’t leave for days – OK that’s not literally true, it just felt that way.  That was the 20th of April, 1999, when teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School. Then themselves.

Photo by Taber Andrew Bain. Creative Commons licensed.

Photo by Taber Andrew Bain. Creative Commons licensed.

The Denver Post keeps a special archive of its Columbine coverage on the Internet, and, after the Aurora shooting, I found myself looking back through those pages. Change just a few of the key details, and most of the headlines written back then could also have been written on 20 July 2012 or 14 December: “Bloodbath leaves 15 dead, 28 hurt” (the correct toll came a few days later), “Colorado, world mourn deaths at Columbine High”,  “A diary of devastation”, “Survivors and families likely to feel both euphoria and guilt”. And so it goes on…and on…and on.

And then this one: “Gun control battle looms”. There was a lot of excited talk after Columbine and after Sandy Hook that something would be done, this time was different, this time the nation was shocked enough. (Not so much after Aurora. The U.S. was in election mode, and neither of the candidates wanted to go near gun control.)

At the same time, and perhaps perversely to some of us, the Batman shootings and Sandy Hook prompted a rise in gun buying. The inside of U.S. movie theatres and primary schools, it seems, are now places where you need to be armed. Would you like some ammo with that popcorn? Sally, don’t forget your Kevlar backpack.

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Shock! Horror! Agreeing With Family First!

I wrote my column this past Saturday in support of Labour MP Sue Moroney’s bill to expand paid parental leave from the current 14 weeks to 26 weeks. The bill barely squeaked through its first reading, with the National caucus and John Banks voting No, and it’s now before a select committee. One thing that I hope will come out of that are some costings on the financial benefits of expanded PPL, since the social benefits are pretty obvious.

Well, I think so anyway. But if you want more on that, check out the 26 For Babies campaign page. A few, um, “interesting” comments have already emerged from the Select Committee hearings, including this gem from Paul Clark, owner of the New Zealand Ammunition Company, who opposes the bill and was reported by the DomPost as saying that “Having a family is a choice – almost like buying a luxury car.” A dubious analogy on so many levels…

In researching the column, I asked for a bit more comment from Tauranga’s MP Simon Bridges as well as Family First’s director Bob McCoskrie. As so often happens somewhere in between gathering far too much information and trying to squeeze it into 600 words, I didn’t fit the quotes in, but appreciated that they responded to my query, so I thought I’d put their comments up here. As you can tell if you read the column, I don’t think this is a matter of affordability but of priorities. And, well, also as per the column, I’m a bit weirded out by finding myself on the same side of an issue as Bob, but there you go!

Simon Bridges, Nat.-Tauranga:

This Government is focused on responsibly managing the country’s finances.  It’s important that we get back to surplus and get debt under control, which is why we can’t have Parliament deciding to go off and spend money which we simply don’t have.  I am concerned at the financial implications of nearly doubling the amount of parental leave – Labour’s proposals would cost about $450 million over the first four years and this is money we simply don’t have.

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