Profile of an Anti-Abortionist: Hillary Kieft

May 25, 2016 in General

Hillary Kieft is the latest in an interminable line of anti-abortion zealots trying to constrict other women’s reproductive freedom. However, unlike most of the others, Ms Kieft is Maori. Aged 44, she was born in Masterton in 1962 and raised in Clinton, a small Otago country town. She also came from a dysfunctional family, with an ill mother involved with gangs, who placed partying above their responsibilities to their children. From eight onward, she was the recipient of serial rape from a boarder in the house. As a consequence, Kieft lost her ability to learn, and took up alcohol and drugs. In 1987, she moved to Muttaburra, North Queensland as a cook for a shearing gang. She met Peter, her partner there, although the shearing life was also characterised by alcohol and drugs. In 1988, she had an abortion in Brisbane after she experienced an unwanted pregnancy, which led to spasmodic periods of affiliation to fundamentalist Christianity, alternating with periods of alcohol and drug addiction. Hillary and Peter reunited and when she became pregnant again, they returned to New Zealand. In 1998, she was baptised as a fundamentalist in Hawera but remained hooked on gambling, alcohol and drugs until she finally ended up in a psychiatric institution.

Things worked out later on and she and her husband now own the Well Café in Stratford, Taranaki. At that point, Hillary’s daughter had an abortion but she had to live in an environment where her mother was a keen anti-abortionist and fundamentalist Christian, and had been exposed to early instability in her life due to her parents problems with alcohol and drugs. Resultantly, she experienced depression, self-harm and attempted suicide. Since 2015, Kieft has been campaigning against competent minors medical confidentiality clauses, which have been in the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977. Kieft argues that parents have the right to know if a girl has a confirmed pregnancy, and that anti-abortion propaganda be forced on young women to frighten them out of the procedure related to ‘possible reprecussions and after effects.’

What happened to Hillary Kieft earlier in her life was truly awful and I empathise with that. However, precisely because of the earlier circumstances of her life, she demonstrates why it isn’t a good idea to enshrine parental presence in young women’s abortion decisions. Would her own parents have made responsible decisions if she had been in the same situation as her daughter earlier in her life, given what she has stated about them? Not all parents are cut out to embrace parental responsibilities and some may respond to news about an unwanted pregnancy with family violence against the pregnant young woman. In some cases, young women cannot or dare not tell their parents because of a severely dysfunctional family background. If they decide not to bring a child into such a toxic home environment, then that is the responsible thing to do. It means that she will be able to ultimately escape from those circumstances. Bringing a child up amidst such poison may only perpetuate intergenerational misery and dysfunction. I am glad that Hillary Kieft is happy now and that she has finally found peace and fulfilment in her life. Unfortunately, I cannot support her crusade precisely because of the idealisation and romanticisation of all parents as optimally responsible, mature and nurturant. Sadly, that is not the case.

Moreover, there’s the question of where this obsession with the anti-abortion and antigay causes leads people. An Australian evangelical minister, Rob Buckingham, voiced resentment about American fundamentalist cultural imperialism when it came to Australian evangelicals. He noted that other Australians indeed did regard anti-abortion and anti-gay politics as primary fundamentalist obsessions, but at the cost of dealing with poverty, homelessness, abused and disabled individuals within their communities. He warns that obsessing about political control risks alienating people from Christian conversion, viewing the Christian Right as the ‘voice’ of all Christians at the core of a ‘right-wing conspiracy.’

(Unfortunately, the newspaper itself then pontificates about pornography, carries anti-abortion propaganda advertisements, and the aforementioned piece. Buckingham is right, but no-one in either Australia or New Zealand fundamentalist circles appears to be listening.

Janet Balcombe: “Angel’s Wings” Christian Life 34 (May 2016): 6:

Rob Buckingham: “Has the Church Lost Its Voice?” Christian Life 34 (May 2016): 7.