NEW ZEALAND – Abortion Law Reform Bill passes first reading by wide margin

The long awaited, draft abortion law reform bill passed its first reading, 94 to 23, in the Parliament on 8 August 2019. “The biggest change was taking it out of the criminal code, which is very positive,” reported Jackie Edmond, head of Family Planning NZ, since abortion services were still managed through the Ministry of Justice, even though it’s a health service.

In the last 10 years, 2,566 women have been told that their request for an abortion was unjustified, according to a report from Stuff Circuit, an investigative reporting group, with data from the NZ Abortion Supervisory Committee.

ALRANZ reports that much of the new bill is great, but not everything. Here are the things Terry Bellamak says the government definitely got right:

  • Abortion care is out of the Crimes Act for health practitioners.
  • Self-abortion is no longer an offence.
  • Women can self-refer to the abortion service.
  • Counselling is offered, but not mandatory.
  • No certifying consultants except the one that provides the service.
  • Qualified health practitioners can provide the service, not just doctors.
  • Clinics no longer need to have a special licence.
  • Safe areas around clinics up to 150m.
  • Up to 20 weeks, abortion is health care. But why only up to 20 weeks?

Not so good aspects – continuation of barriers and obstacles:

  • A statutory test after 20 weeks (health practitioner must have a reasonable belief that the abortion is appropriate with regard to physical and mental health and well-being. There’s no evidence that upper time limits result in fewer second and third trimester abortions. But there is evidence that such cut-offs harm women, especially those who are already disadvantaged. 
  • Conscientious objection is retained.

Hon Ruth Dyson, Chairperson of the Abortion Legislation Committee, is calling for public submissions on the Abortion Legislation Bill. The closing date for submissions is 19 September 2019. Click here to make a submission on the Parliament website.

SOURCES: ALRANZ Facebook, 10 August 2019 & 12 August 2019 ; Abortion Legislation Select Committee, 8 August 2019 ; ABC News, by Alice Chamber, 8 August 2019 ; PHOTO: News Hub 8 August 2019