Reforming New Zealand's Abortion Laws
Resources and Links
Abortion Rights Aotearoa
Decriminalisation of Abortion LawThe CS&A Act and the Abortion Supervisory Committee that oversees the Act are administered by the Ministry of Justice as the Act comes under the Crimes Act. Abortion is a woman’s health issue, not a crime. Abortion services should therefore be overseen by the Ministry of Health. This would decriminalise abortion and enable improvements to abortion services to be made more effectively.
New Zealand is not the only country facing this issue. In October 2008 the Abortion Law Reform Act was passed in Victoria, Australia, bringing the law relating to termination of pregnancy into line with existing clinical practice and community attitudes. The passing of the Abortion Law Reform Act was achieved after a long campaign by abortion law reform advocates in Victoria who ran an informed and educative campaign focused on political lobbying. In May 2010 Lynda Williams attended the 6th Australian Women’s Health Conference held in Hobart and spoke with some of Victoria’s abortion law reform campaigners. More information on how the law reform was achieved in Victoria and the lessons for New Zealand can be found in a report “A Road Map to Abortion Law Reform” written after the conference.1
Cost of NZ’s abortion serviceThe current abortion service is costing NZ taxpayers over $5 million a year in consultant fees. There are 176 certifying consultants on the ASC’s list of practitioners who act as consultants for women considering a termination of pregnancy. The CS&A Act requires that a woman see two certifying consultants who must both agree that she has legal grounds for an abortion. (In 2009 17,230 of the 17,550 abortions were granted on the grounds that there was a danger to the mental health of the mother.) Each consultation costs $135.
This system is long past its use-by date and is both cumbersome and unnecessarily costly. Whatever the reasons were in 1977 for establishing such a process, they no longer apply now. The money is needed to improve the quality of the service and to improve access to abortion services for women in rural areas who are currently not receiving timely access to services. It is time for change.
References1. A Road Map to Abortion Law Reform May 2010.