New Zealand abortion law was liberalised on March 18, 2020. Abortion is legal up to birth with the only requirement being that after 20 weeks the “health practitioner reasonably believes that the abortion is clinically appropriate in the circumstances.”
Previously, the law attempted to protect the unborn child unless certain exceptions existed.
Abortion is regarded as a “health service”, and is overseen by the Ministry of Health. During Covid-19 lockdowns, abortion remains available as an “essential service”.
The Abortion Legislation Act, 2020
- differentiates the time before 20 weeks of pregnancy and after 20 weeks of pregnancy;
- does not require a woman to be referred by a doctor or other health practitioner;
- does not require counselling.
The Act reads as follows:
Provision of abortion services to women not more than 20 weeks pregnant
A qualified health practitioner may provide abortion services to a woman who is not more than 20 weeks pregnant.
Provision of abortion services to women more than 20 weeks pregnant
(1) A qualified health practitioner may only provide abortion services to a woman who is more than 20 weeks pregnant if the health practitioner reasonably believes that the abortion is clinically appropriate in the circumstances.
(2) In considering whether the abortion is clinically appropriate in the circumstances, the qualified health practitioner must—
(a) consult at least 1 other qualified health practitioner; and
(b) have regard to—
(i) all relevant legal, professional, and ethical standards to which the qualified health practitioner is subject; and
(ii) the woman’s—
(A) physical health; and
(B) mental health; and
(C) overall well-being; and
(iii) the gestational age of the fetus.
(3) Subsection (2) does not apply in a medical emergency.
It is important to note that the term “health practitioner” is given the same meaning as in the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. The definition provided under that legislation is as follows:
“health practitioner or practitioner means a person who is, or is deemed to be, registered with an authority as a practitioner of a particular health profession.”
A list of responsible authorities can be found on the Ministry of Health website.
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