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Our history

We have been operating since 1936.


The beginning

Family Planning was set up in 1936. It was at first known as the Sex Hygiene and Birth Regulation Society. At that time, contraception was basic and unreliable.

It was common at this time for women to die from illegal abortions. A Government inquiry (the McMillan Inquiry) in 1937 found that at least one pregnancy in five ended in abortion, and that the majority of women dying from illegal abortions were married with four or more children. We began to promote the benefits of contraception.

Rendell's Pessaries were always advertised as the “Wife’s Friend.” The first commercial pessaries were made in 1885.

In 1939 we changed our name to the New Zealand Family Planning Association. 


A decade of firsts

In April 1940, we were said to have broken postal regulations by posting obscene literature - it was a flier which used the word "contraception".

The following year, 1941, we set up a fund to help needy women pay for contraception.

The Post Office letter saying we had posted obscene literature and reminding us that the facilities of the Post Office should not be used in this way.

Where Did I Come From was our first sexuality education brochure. It was produced in 1942.

The Dominion Population Committee Report (published in 1946) said that if contraceptives were more widely issued they could destroy the moral stamina of the nation. The report dashed any hope that the contraception clinics recommended in the McMillan Inquiry (1937) would be established.


Legislation follows report

Lower Hutt was the location for our first national conference in 1951. Just two years later we opened our first contraception clinic in Remuera, Auckland.

The Mazengarb Report, formally the Report of the Special Committee on Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents, was released in 1954. It was followed by legislation which made it illegal to provide or discuss contraception with anyone under 16.

Christchurch was the site of our second clinic which opened in 1956.

A year later (1957) our Auckland clinics began routine cervical smears - a radical practice at the time.

Several women with early stage cervical cancer were detected.

A tray set up with the equipment needed for a cervical smear test – a speculum and the brushes and brooms used to sweep cells from the cervix.


It’s all about the pill

The contraceptive pill became available in New Zealand in 1961. For the first time, married women had a reliable method of contraception.

The United States was the first country to approve the contraceptive pill for sale – it was Enovid-10 on 23 June 1960.

However in 1965, the New Zealand Branch of the British Medical Association ethical committee advised doctors against prescribing the pill to unmarried women.

The Association said that to facilitate extra-marital relationships was not in keeping with the highest ideals of the medical profession.

By 1965, it was estimated that 40 per cent of married, fertile women in New Zealand were on the pill.


Abortion on the agenda

From 1972 onwards, we received some Government funding and were able to open more clinics.

The first abortion clinic opened in Auckland in 1974. It was soon raided by police and forced to close down. Large numbers of women travelled to Sydney for abortions throughout this decade until the law was changed. We called for abortion to be legal for women with an early unwanted pregnancy.

The Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion was held and its report, released in March 1977, okayed contraception within marriage and reluctantly allowed contraception to be prescribed outside of marriage.

The Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion sat from June 1975 to March 1977. Source: Alexander Turnbull Library.

The Commission report also recommended the establishment of the Abortion Supervisory Committee - a register of doctors allowed to make decisions on abortion requests.

In December 1977, Parliament passed the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act - legislation which still largely sets our abortion rules today.


Act amendment sought

HIV/AIDS was first identified in New Zealand in 1984. At the time, 51 New Zealanders were known to have contracted the illness and 22 had died.

In the 1980s, Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs) increased, and we promoted condoms as a means of reducing the risk of STIs and HIV/AIDS, and as a method of contraception.

We adopted our sexuality education philosophy in 1985. The philosophy expressed people’s right to live free of discrimination and express their sexuality without hurt or violence of others.

Our sexuality education resource “Deciding and Choosing” was first published in 1985.

Health Minister Helen Clark introduced the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Amendment Bill in 1989. The Bill aimed to repeal the section that limited contraception education for under 16 year olds and to abolish the certifying consultant system. The bill was eventually split in two allowing young people to be told about contraception. There was no change to the abortion legislation.

Towards the end of the 1980s, we began to address Treaty of Waitangi issues and the fact that Maori had limited access to sexual and reproductive health services.


Funding structure changes

Te Puawai Tapu (the sacred blossom) was formed in 1990. It is an independent organisation that works to improve Maori sexual and reproductive health.

Our central funding ceased after health sector reforms in 1993. Funding was instead through contracts with four regional health authorities and the Public Health Commission.

The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo was a milestone in the history of population and development, as well as in the history of women's rights. At the conference the world agreed that population is not just about counting people, but about making sure that every person counts.

New Zealand was one of 179 countries present at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development.

In 1996, Health Minister Jenny Shipley announced a major strategy on sexual and reproductive health. It put forward a range of ideas from sexuality education in schools to allowing women easier access to the pill. This signalled a new level of support from Government for sexual and reproductive health.


Strategy announced

The Ministry of Health launched the Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy in 2001 and a resource book was released in 2003.

These documents outlined the Government's vision for positive and improved sexual and reproductive health for all New Zealanders, and how this could be achieved.

By 2008 we were calling for the strategy to be properly resourced and implemented, so that unplanned pregnancy, abortion, HIV/AIDS, cervical cancer and sub-fertility could be reduced.

That same year we released a resource for the deaf community for the first time - a DVD in New Zealand Sign Language.

We have resources and pamphlets in a number of different languages – including New Zealand Sign Language.


Advocacy work pays off

Hei Huarahi, our first electronically delivered resource, was developed in 2010. This resource is a sexuality education resource for teachers of Year 10 (Form Four) students.

Two years of our advocacy paid off when PHARMAC announced that the Jadelle contraceptive implant would be subsidised from 1 August 2010.

The decision means most women will pay very little or even nothing at all to get the implant.

Jadelle contraceptive implants are inserted under the skin in the upper arm during a 30 minute appointment.

Also in 2010, we launched a te reo sexuality education resource, Te Huarahi Hokakatanga. The teaching resource was New Zealand’s first Maori-language sexuality resource released nationwide.

We began offering an early medical abortion service at our Tauranga Clinic in April 2013. Late in the year we set up a Client Contact Centre in Hamilton to make it easier for clients to make appointments.