GOVT ANNOUNCES PROPOSED CHANGES IN ABORTION LAW
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.