New Zealand abortion law is being challenged with the Abortion Legislation Bill currently at select committee stage. This bill seeks to reform abortion law.
Current New Zealand abortion law is contained within three legislative texts:
Abortion Legislation Bill
The Abortion Legislation Bill was introduced by Justice Minister, Andrew Little on behalf of the government on Monday 5 August 2019.
The Bill passed its first reading 94 to 23 votes and is currently at select committee stage.
Submissions can be made until Thursday 19 September, 2019.
The proposed legislation seeks to remove abortion from the Crimes Act, treating it as a ‘health issue’ in the same way as any other elective medical procedure such as having a mole or tonsils removed.
Current legislation affords some recognition to the rights of the unborn child, however, the proposed legislation removes all recognition entirely.
Key points in the proposed legislation:
- Abortion on demand up to 20 weeks.
- Abortion from 20 weeks up to birth with limited vague test assessing woman’s “well-being”.
- Informed choice and consent must be ensured.
- Counselling is not mandatory (the same as under the current law) however the option must be given.
- True conscientious objection does not exist for health practitioners as the woman must be referred to the Ministry of Health for a list of those who will perform an abortion; and a health practitioner may be dismissed if their objection impacts on the employer’s ability to provide abortions.
- Abortion Supervisory Committee will be disbanded and the Ministry of Health and Director General of Health will collect data and develop standards of care.
- Safe areas will be instigated around abortion facilities and it will be illegal to gather, or provide materials about alternatives to abortion within a 150m radius. People risk arrest and a fine of up to $1000.
- It will still remain a criminal offense to procure an abortion if the person doing so is not a qualified health practitioner and to assault a pregnant woman and cause the death of the pre-born child.
More information and commentary about the Abortion Legislation Bill and its implications can be found in the following posts:
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”).
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.