Abortion or termination of pregnancy can be carried out either surgically or with medication (depending how many weeks pregnant you are and/or the services offered in your area).
Abortion is a human right and ensuring women’s right to comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion, is part of Aotearoa New Zealand’s international human rights obligations.
Abortion is now legal in New Zealand
In March of 2020 abortion was removed from the crimes act, meaning it is now legal to have an abortion in New Zealand. Under the new law, up to and including 20 weeks of a pregnancy, a qualified health practitioner can provide an abortion to a pregnant person.
Prior to the new law being passed abortions were carried out in New Zealand through a legal loophole which allowed people to access an abortion if two certifying consultants agreed that one of four conditions had been met: incest, potential physical or mental harm to the pregnant person, fetal defects, mental disability.
Women’s Health Action welcomes the decision to legalise abortion, and presented an oral submission to to the Select Committee in October 2019, which can be viewed here (timestamp: 51.07).
Getting an abortion in Aotearoa New Zealand
Before 20 weeks
Up to and including 20 weeks of a pregnancy, a qualified health practitioner can provide an abortion. You are able to self-refer to an abortion service and there is no legal age limit for who is able to receive an abortion. The law states that you must be offered counselling following an abortion, but it is your decision whether or not you decide to do this.
After 20 weeks
If you are more than 20 weeks pregnant you will need to see a health practitioner. The health practitioner will need to consult a second health practitioner, and decide whether an abortion is clinically appropriate. Health practitioners will need to consider;
- legal, professional, and ethical standards
- the pregnant person’s physical health, mental health and overall well-being
- the gestational age of the foetus.
Abortion services in Aotearoa New Zealand
The abortion services available to you will be determined by the District Health Board (DHB) in your area. All DHBs are required to provide access to abortions, but some regions have less access and may require you to travel.
You can find a directory of abortion services in New Zealand here.
Occasionally a doctor will decline to refer women to abortion services on the basis of their personal beliefs. Doctors are permitted by law to decline a referral. However, doctors are required to inform patients that they can obtain a referral from another provider. Therefore, if your doctor is not supportive of your decision to seek an abortion make sure you see a different health care provider.
Under the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumer Rights you have the right to be given all the information you require to make an informed choice and the right to be treated with respect. If you are having difficulty obtaining a referral for an abortion in your area, contact your local Family Planning clinic.
Choosing a method of abortion
Both medical and surgical abortion techniques are well established procedures, and the method of abortion is dependent on your preference. Your abortion provider may also take into account how far along you are in your pregnancy, your medical history and the services available in your area.
Standard 55 of the Standards of Care for Women Requesting Induced Abortion in New Zealand (2009) states that: ‘All services must actively promote the earliest possible procedure and work towards being able to offer women a choice of methods appropriate for each gestation period.’
Do I have to pay for my abortion?
Abortion is free in New Zealand to any pregnant person eligible for funded healthcare.
Abortion services » information on abortion services in New Zealand.
What to do » helpful information on the process of getting an abortion.
The law around abortion » informational guide written by Family Planning.
10 common myths about abortion, busted » busting some common myths about abortion
Considering an abortion » The Ministry of Health’s abortion page