Abortion Law review findings released

The Law Commission has released the findings of its review into abortion law, recommending three possible new models for accessing abortion.

Minister of Justice Andrew Little wrote to the commission asking for a review in February 2018. He wanted it to consider removing abortion from the crimes act and instead treating it as a health issue.

He said on Friday he would be discussing with his colleagues at Parliament before taking the matter further.

Green Party MP Jan Logie welcomed the review and said New Zealand needed to make changes to the current abortion law.

"We want to see abortion laws that reflect the needs of people seeking to terminate a pregnancy, and recognise the importance of women's bodily autonomy," she said in a statement.

Currently a person must say they are physically or mentally incapable of continuing the pregnancy and gain permission from two certifying consultants before they are able to get an abortion.

The review suggested three models, A, B and C, for the provision of abortion if it were decriminalised and treated as a health issue.

  • Model A would not require any statutory test and the decision as to whether to have an abortion would be between the person seeking an abortion and health practitioners.
  • Model B would require a statutory test and the health practitioner who intends to perform the abortion to be satisfied the procedure is appropriate in the circumstances, considering the person's physical and mental health and wellbeing
  • Model C would not require a statutory test until 22 weeks of pregnancy. After 22 weeks the health practitioner intending to perform the abortion would need to be satisfied it is appropriate in the circumstances, after considering the person's mental and physical wellbeing

The paper also suggested several changes to current abortion procedures including: 

  • Repealing current grounds for abortion under the Crimes Act
  • Removing the requirement for abortions to be approved by two certifying consultants
  • Allowing people to access abortion services directly, rather than through a referral from a doctor
  • Removing restrictions over who can perform an abortion and where it can be performed. Instead provision of services would be regulated by health bodies, such as any other medical proceedures
  • Moving the Abortion Supervisory Committee's oversight responsibilities to the Ministry of Health
  • Requiring conscientious objectors who do not wish to aid people requesting an abortion to refer them to somebody who will provide the service

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa welcomed the release of the report, but said it could have gone further and suggested the implementation a "buffer zone" preventing protesting near where abortions are performed.

Christian group Family First expressed disappointment in the review and said most of the submissions made to the Law Commission were not in favour of abortion.

The Law Commission did admit this in the report, but added a significant number of the submissions not in favour of abortion were made using a Family First "I'm with both" pamphlet.