In March 2020, New Zealand modernised its abortion laws for the first time in 40 years. Abortion is now regulated under health legislation.
Abortion is legal in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is no legal age limit on having an abortion in New Zealand.
Is abortion legal in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Yes. In New Zealand the law says it is legal to have an abortion.
Up to and including 20 weeks of a pregnancy, a qualified health practitioner can provide an abortion to a pregnant person.
After 20 weeks of pregnancy, a qualified health practitioner may only provide abortion services to a pregnant person if the health practitioner believes the abortion is clinically appropriate in the circumstances. The health practitioner must consult with at least one other health practitioner and consider: legal, professional, and ethical standards; the pregnant person’s physical health, mental health and overall well-being, and the gestational age of the foetus.
Abortion is regulated by a number of laws in New Zealand.
What laws regulate abortion in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977
The Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act (CS&A Act) 1977, as amended by the Abortion Legislation Act 2020, contains the majority of the rules related to abortion provision in New Zealand. This includes rules around the circumstances when abortions can be provided, reporting requirements and conscientious objection.
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 makes explicit in law that a person under the age of 16 can consent to have or not have an abortion.
Crimes Act 1961
It is a criminal offence under the Crimes Act 1961 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.
Is there an age limit to have an abortion?
There is no legal age limit on seeking or having an abortion.
This means that a person of any age can agree (consent) to have an abortion or refuse to have one. No one can force you to have an abortion or to continue a pregnancy.
It is also your decision who you tell about the procedure – this includes your partner and parents. If you are a teenager, it is a good idea to talk to a parent or another trusted adult. If you do choose to seek an abortion, it is good to have adult support. You will also be offered counselling and you can decide if this would be helpful to you.
What is conscientious objection?
Conscientious objection is when a person does not believe in providing a service – primarily abortion or contraception.
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.
The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (Section 174) also includes these rules about conscientious objection.
Do I need a referral to an abortion service?
No. The law is clear that pregnant people can self-refer to an abortion service. The law is also clear that counselling must be offered to people seeking an abortion, and following an abortion, but it cannot be a requirement of providing an abortion.
For more information about abortion and to find a provider near you, visit the Ministry of Health website.
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.