Abortion is legal in New Zealand and is regulated under health law. It is your right to seek an abortion from a qualified health practitioner (nurse, doctor or midwife) and to access abortion services without being harassed or intimidated.
Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977
The Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act (CS&A Act) 1977, as amended by the Abortion Legislation Act 2020 and the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion (Safe Areas) Amendment Act 2022, contains the majority of the rules related to abortion provision in New Zealand.
The law states that you do not need to be referred by a doctor to have an abortion, you can self-refer, and you can decide to have counselling or not. A range of health practitioners, like nurses, doctors (including GPs) and midwives can provide abortion if they are qualified to.
The law allows for safe areas of no more than 150 metres to be established around abortion facilities. It is illegal for people to obstruct, film in an intimidating manner, dissuade those trying to access abortion or protest against abortion within these zones. Safe areas are not automatic around every service. Abortion providers must apply to the Ministry of Health to establish a safe area around a facility.
Health services, including abortion, are regulated through the following key laws:
- Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994 and the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights
- Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003
- Medicines Act 1981
- Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act 2001
- Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
Care of Children Act 2004
Section 38 of the Care of Children Act 2004 says that a female of any age can consent to have or not have an abortion.
Crimes Act 1961
It is a criminal offence under the Crimes Act 1961 (Section 183) for a person who is not a health practitioner to perform an abortion or attempt to perform one, or procure an abortion, or attempt to procure one. However, a person on whom the abortion is performed or attempted is not subject to the criminal offence.
The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (Section 174) includes rules about conscientious objection, which are the same as the rules in the CS&A Act.
Conscientious objection is when a person will not provide a service because of their beliefs. This is usually only for services like abortion, contraception or sterilisation.
A person who has a conscientious objection to abortion or contraception – including emergency contraception – is not required to assist in the performance of an abortion or the provision of contraception.
A person who has a conscientious objection must inform you of their objection as early as possible. The person must inform you how to access the contact details of another person who is the closest provider of the service you have requested.
What are your rights when it comes to abortion in Aotearoa New Zealand?