‘Quiet as lambs’: Communicative Action in the New Zealand Parliamentary Debates on Human Assisted Reproductive Technology

Laura McLauchlan, Julie Katherine Park


Communicative action in the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology (HART) debates in the New Zealand Parliament in 2004 is analysed in this paper using Habermasian concepts of deliberation. The marked cooperativeness of these debates, which surprised the elected participants themselves, is demonstrated through a comparison with the related and almost simultaneous Care of Children debate, using a Discourse Quality Index inspired by Steiner et al (2004), assisted by qualitative analysis software. Using the thematic content of HART debates themselves, assisted by international literature on related debates, how this cooperativeness was accomplished is examined. Our analysis suggests that “conscience” voting, intentional sequestration of potentially destructive topics, active attempts to create unity, and a degree of Habermasian “deliberative reasonableness” all had parts to play. Why these debates exhibited these features is discussed in the conclusion where we draw attention to concepts of “the greater good”, the perceived importance of the topic and reference to aspects of New Zealand identity. Finally, we point to a contradiction in the resulting legislation which relegated on-going debate on HART to appointed committees meeting in private.


reproductive technology, policy, democratic process

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol7iss1id118