Abortion law reform: Select Committee report, next steps

Tue 18 Feb 2020

The Select Committee has reported on the Abortion Legislation Bill. The Committee recommended by majority that the legislation be passed with amendments.

The omnibus Abortion Legislation Bill would decriminalise abortion, better align the regulation of abortion services with other health services, and modernise the legal framework for abortion. Justice Minister Andrew Little introduced the bill in August 2019. More than 25,000 submissions were received through the public consultation process. The Abortion Legislation Committee's report (14 February 2020) describes their proposed amendments.

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa has published an analysis of the post-Select Committee bill. They describe what they identify as some positive changes, including creating a positive duty on the part of the Minister of Health to ensure reproductive health services and related counselling are available in every part of New Zealand. They also set out what they identify as some negative changes, including concerns about the provisions relating to conscientious objection including in cases of sexual violence. ALRANZ said "On the whole, however, ALRANZ believes the statutes the bill is amending are so flawed that it would be irresponsible for Parliament to fail to pass the bill." 

The Bill now awaits its Second Reading.

Update: The Abortion Legislation Bill has received Royal Assent.

Background information

In 2018, the Government asked the Law Commission to examine abortion law. The Law Commission submitted a briefing paper outlining options

Justice Minister Andrew Little has previously said:

“Abortion is the only medical procedure that is still a crime in New Zealand. It’s time for this to change. This Bill will modernise the laws on abortion, by removing it from the Crimes Act and bringing the law into line with many other developed countries. Safe abortion should be treated and regulated as a health issue; a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body.”

Related research

Research has identified and explored multiple links between intimate partner violence, sexual violence and reproductive health and justice. Reproductive coercion is a form of intimate partner violence. It includes behaviours that interfere with or control people's choices about accessing contraception, reproductive health and pregnancy (e.g. trying to get a person pregnant, or control a person's decision-making around a pregnancy).

For more information see the following:

Reproductive coercion in Aotearoa New Zealand (National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, 2018)

Intimate partner violence and women's reproductive health (Fanslow 2017)

Reproductive Justice & Violence Against Women: Understanding the Intersections (VAWnet special collection, 2017)

Reproductive coercion Clearinghouse Connector (Women's Health Victoria list of articles, 2015)

For further information search the NZFVC library under reproductive coercion.

Update: Promundo published a report on Getting to Equal: Men, Gender Equality, and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (2019).

Related news

ALRANZ Abortion Rights Aotearoa, Fem Force, Victoria University Feminists Organisation, National Council of Women and HELP are co-sponsoring a National Day of Action – Our Bodies, Our Choices on 18 February 2020.

On International Safe Abortion Day, 28 September 2019, United Nations human rights experts issued a joint statement calling on states to ensure access to safe and legal abortion as a matter of human rights.

Related media

Telemedicine Abortion Care Comes To New Zealand, Press Release: ALRANZ, Scoop, 08.04.2020

Abortion referendum scrapped - public won't decide on law change, NZ Herald, 18.03.2020

MPs Should Make An Exception For Conscientious Obstruction In Rape Cases, Press Release: ALRANZ, Scoop, 09.03.2020

Andrew Little will not try to re-insert 'safe zones' into abortion bill after procedural snafu, Stuff, 11.03.2020

ALRANZ Salutes Second Reading Passage Of Abortion Bill, Press Release: ALRANZ, Scoop, 04.03.2020

Why sexual violence needs to be classed as a medical emergency, The Spinoff, 23.02.2020

Organise Aotearoa Supports Nationwide Rallies For Abortion Rights, Press Release: Organise Aotearoa, Scoop, 18.02.2020

Select committee recommends allowing medical practitioners to refuse contraception, Stuff, 16.02.2020

Select committee delivers report on abortion Bill, RNZ, 14.02.2020

It’s crunch time: Five reasons to hit the streets for abortion rights, The Spinoff, 14.02.2020

Abortion law reform: Extra doctor consultation recommended for later than 20-week abortions, NZ Herald, 14.02.2020

Image: Harrison Haines from Pexels

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