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Family law

Abortion (“Termination”)


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 can I get an abortion?

Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, ss 10–11; Abortion Legislation Act 2020

If you’re 20 weeks pregnant or less, you can get an abortion by going to a health practitioner.

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.

If you’re more than 20 weeks pregnant, you can get an abortion if a health practitioner has a reasonable belief that abortion is an appropriate medical procedure for you in your situation. 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 (go to: www.familyplanning.org.nz).

Where can I go to get an abortion/termination?

Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, s 18

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 person who is pregnant can decide. 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 (see: “Child support”).

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?

Abortion Legislation Act 2020, s 12

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?

Abortion Legislation Act 2020, s 14

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 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”. You can read it online at Pregnancy Rights. To get a hardcopy, see: “Where to go for more support” at the bottom of this page.

Next Section | Adoption

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Parents, guardians and caregivers

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet, here. This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.
Email for a hard copy: publications@wclc.org.nz
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Family Court

The Family Court website covers many topics discussed in this chapter, including how the family court works, care of children, adoption and paternity.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/family

New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on what happens with children when parents separate.

Website: www.lawsociety.org.nz/for-the-public/common-legal-issues/what-happens-to-your-children-when-you-part

Inland Revenue

Inland Revenue’s Child Support webpage has a wide range of forms and guides for parents and caregivers.

Website: www.ird.govt.nz/topics/child-support
Phone: 0800 221 221

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services (ANZASCS)

The ANZASCS website has information about supervised contact and lists contact details for approved providers of supervised contact services.

Website: www.anzascs.org.nz

Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are many kinds of “alternative dispute resolution” that, depending on your personal situation, may be cheaper and more successful than going to the Family Court. These include counselling, mediation and negotiation. The following list is not exhaustive:

Resolution Institute: www.resolution.institute
Website: www.aminz.org.nz
Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand Inc (AMINZ): www.fdrc.co.nz
FairWay: www.fairwayresolution.com
Family Works: www.familyworkscentral.org.nz

Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children

Oranga Tamariki’s website has information about the adoption process.

Website: www.orangatamariki.govt.nz/adoption/adopting-in-nz
Phone: 0508 326 459

Department of Internal Affairs

The DIA website has information on how to obtain original birth certificates for adopted children.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/adoption-and-fostering/finding-your-birth-parents

Registering your child’s birth

The Smartstart website allows you to register your baby’s birth online.

Website: www.smartstart.services.govt.nz/register-my-baby

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