What is abortion (or termination)?
An abortion/termination is a procedure to terminate (end) a pregnancy by removing the embryo or foetus from a woman’s womb before it is able to survive outside the woman’s body. Abortion is also called termination. A termination can be medical (using drugs) or surgical.
What is the difference between a medical and surgical termination?
A medical termination brings on a miscarriage similar to a natural miscarriage. Two medications are taken for a medical termination and are for women up to nine weeks pregnant, but are not available in all parts of New Zealand.
A surgical termination is when the pregnancy ends by an operation.
When is it legal to have an abortion/termination?
On 24 March 2020 the law changed and terminations are now available without restriction for women who are up to 20 weeks pregnant.
If you’re more than 20 weeks pregnant, a termination is available if a health practitioner has a reasonable belief that abortion is an appropriate medical procedure for you in your situation. A “health practitioner” is a registered health professional, for example, your GP, a midwife, a Family Planning Clinic, or a hospital abortion service like the Te Mahoe Unit at Wellington Hospital.
In making that decision the health practitioner must consult with at least one other health practitioner, and they must take into account:
- all the relevant legal, professional and ethical standards that apply to them, and
- your physical and mental health and overall well-being, and
- how many weeks pregnant you are.
If you’re unsure about whether and how this law applies to you, you should talk to your doctor or to Family Planning, www.familyplanning.org.nz
Where can I go to get an abortion/termination?
Terminations must be carried out in a licensed clinic or hospital. A list of licensed clinics or hospitals can be found at www.abortion.org.nz
Clinics or hospitals with limited licences can perform terminations for pregnancies of up to 12 weeks.
For pregnancies over 12 weeks a termination must be carried out in a clinic or hospital with a full licence.
Does the father of the unborn child have a say in the decision about abortion/termination?
No. The decision is the woman’s. The father of an unborn child can’t force a woman to either terminate or continue with a pregnancy. Even if the father disagrees with the woman’s decision to continue with the pregnancy, they still have legal responsibilities to the child when it is born, for example, a responsibility for child support. For more information, see “Child support” in this chapter
Who can I talk to about having an abortion/termination?
You can contact a health practitioner like your GP, midwife, Family Planning clinic or a hospital abortion services unit to find what services are available. In some regions you may have to travel to a nearby area to access the service. You don’t need to go to a doctor first and get a referral from them to go but you will still usually need to contact Family Planning or your GP to arrange blood tests and an ultrasound scan.
Do I have to go to counselling?
No. Before March 2020 it was a legal requirement that counselling services had to be available to all women considering an abortion/termination. Now your health practitioner must tell you that counselling services are available, but they can’t say you have to go to counselling or else they won’t provide the termination.
Can a health practitioner refuse to provide me with abortion/termination services?
The law says that a health practitioner can have a “conscientious objection” to providing abortion/termination services. This means they can refuse to provide you with an abortion or refuse to refer you to another health practitioner for an abortion. However, they must tell you this at the earliest opportunity and give you the contact details of the closest provider of abortion services.
How much does an abortion/termination cost?
Abortions are free for people who are eligible for public health care. In general, you are eligible for public health care if you’re a New Zealand citizen, a residence visa holder, a long-term work visa holder, or an Australian resident or citizen.
As a young person, do I need my parents’ permission to have an abortion/ termination?
No. You can decide to have an abortion/termination at any age. If you are able to make an informed decision, meaning you understand the nature and consequences of a termination, health professionals must respect your privacy and not tell your parents. However, it is likely that your medical professionals will strongly encourage you to have a support person over 18 years old.
Can my parents or guardians force me to have an abortion/termination?
No. It’s your decision. You are legally allowed to refuse to have an abortion/termination, no matter what your age. No one has the right to force you to have a termination or to stop you from having one.
Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy
Community Law publishes the booklet “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy”. For more information see “Where to go for more support” at the end of this chapter