Fiji Sun - - Aust/nz News -

Abor­tion law would only re­quire a med­i­cal test for women who are more than 20 weeks preg­nant, in pro­posed changes an­nounced by the New Zealand govern­ment yes­ter­day morn­ing.

The govern­ment has re­leased the de­tails of a Bill which would re­move abor­tion from the Crimes Act and in­stead treat it as a health is­sue. It comes af­ter months of stalling and backand forth ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween coali­tion part­ners.

Cur­rently, the law al­lows for abor­tion to be per­formed only to save the life of the mother, or to pre­serve her physical or men­tal health, and only if the pro­ce­dure is ap­proved by two doc­tors or con­sul­tants.

Last year the Law Com­mis­sion rec­om­mended three op­tions for abor­tion law re­form. One op­tion was that the de­ci­sion would be for a woman and her doc­tor, an­other that a men­tal

health assess­ment be car­ried out for all abor­tions, and a third would re­quire a woman’s men­tal health to be ex­am­ined only af­ter 22 weeks of preg­nancy. How­ever, the govern­ment has opted for a dif­fer­ent op­tion, re­quir­ing an ex­am­i­na­tion if a woman is more than 20 weeks preg­nant. Af­ter 20 weeks, a health prac­ti­tioner would need to de­ter­mine that they rea­son­ably be­lieve the abor­tion is ap­pro­pri­ate with re­gard to the preg­nant woman’s physical and men­tal health, and well­be­ing.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Lit­tle said the bill would mod­ernise New Zealand’s abor­tion laws, bring­ing them into line with many other de­vel­oped coun­tries.

“Abor­tion is the only med­i­cal pro­ce­dure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It’s time for this to change.

“Safe abor­tion should be treated and regulated as a health is­sue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body. “The safe sys­tems and reg­u­la­tion that we need to do this are al­ready in place through other health leg­is­la­tion and codes of pro­fes­sional prac­tice within the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion. Over­sight of abor­tion ser­vices would be trans­ferred from the Abor­tion Su­per­vi­sory Com­mit­tee to the Min­istry of Health”, Mr Lit­tle said.

The Bill will be treated as a con­science is­sue, mean­ing MPs will be able to vote in­de­pen­dently at each stage. More than 200 peo­ple marched to Par­lia­ment late last month call­ing for re­form of New Zealand’s abor­tion laws, on the day Cab­i­net ministers were con­sid­er­ing the draft Bill.

New Zealand Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Lit­tle.

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