abortion law

New Zealand abortion law is contained within three legislative texts:

It is legal for a woman to obtain an abortion in New Zealand as long as she meets the criteria set out in the Crimes Act and two certifying consultants sign off her request.

It is not a criminal offense for a woman to obtain an abortion.

Criteria for abortion in New Zealand

Abortion is legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy for the following reasons:

  • up to 20 weeks: serious danger to the life, or to the physical or mental health, of the woman or girl .
  • after 20 weeks: save the life of the woman or girl or to prevent serious permanent injury to her physical or mental health.

In addition the following criteria applies if the pregnancy is under 20 weeks gestation:

  • serious physical or intellectual disability of the pre-born child.
  • the woman or girl herself is disabled in some way (wording is “subnormal”).
  • incest.

While not reasons to obtain an abortion in themselves, the following can be also considered:

  • the age of the woman or girl (either at the very beginning or end of childbearing years.
  • the pregnancy is the result of a sexual violation (rape).

Abortion and minors

By law a girl under the age of 16 must obtain permission from her parent(s) or caregiver(s) for medical procedures, or to administer simple medicine such as Panadol. However, under the Care of Children Act, this requirement is removed in the case of abortion.

Abortion is a serious procedure which has a significant impact on the woman or girl, physically, psychologically and spiritually. Abortion also impacts the family. It is a lethal procedure for at least one human being. Some groups are working to change the law so that parent(s) and caregiver(s) are notified of the intention to abort.

Abortion Supervisory Committee

The Abortion Supervisory Committee (ASC) is an entity required by the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act. The Committee’s function is to oversee abortion in New Zealand.

The ASC is required by NZ abortion law to report to Parliament once a year. Statistics New Zealand collate the statistics for this purpose.

One function of the Committee is to issue licenses to hospitals and private facilities throughout the country. The licenses can be “full” or “limited”. A limited license allows surgical or medical abortions up to 12 weeks 6 days.