Abortion legislation update 

24 March 2020

The Abortion Legislation Bill received Royal Assent yesterday and is now in force.   

This legislative amendment updates the primary legislation for abortion, set out in the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977 and the Crimes Act 1961. The legislation is available on the New Zealand Parliament website.   

Expectations for Day 1 

We are aware that the sector’s attention is (appropriately) focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and are expecting that from enactment day most abortion services will continue to function as usual. Abortion services are classified as essential services and will continue at COVID Alert Level 4. 

The main changes that impact Day 1 are not extensive and include removal of certifying consultant authorisations and using a new form for abortion notifications. 

While self-referrals should be enabled by DHB /Abortion Service Providers once they are in a position to do so, GPs and Family Planning Clinics can continue to refer patients to services in the usual manner. 
Longer-term expectations 

Over the coming months, the Ministry of Health will continue to work with abortion service providers, non-governmental organisations, GPs and other stakeholders to increase knowledge of the new legislation and what it means in practice.  The Ministry will also work with the sector to improve equitable access to affordable reproductive health services for women in New Zealand over the longer term. 

Information about key changes 

The following web pages are now live: 

Abortion notifications 

Abortion service providers are required to provide a notification of each abortion performed.

For abortions performed prior to the enactment date (up to and including 23 March 2020), please continue to complete and submit the Abortion Supervisory Committee paper-based form in the usual manner.   

For abortions performed on or after the enactment date (from 24 March 2020 onwards), notifications should be provided to the Ministry of Health, and a new form is required. Please email alr@health.govt.nz if you are an abortion service provider and require access to the new notification forms.   

Standards of Care 

The Ministry is currently developing Interim Standards for Abortion Services and these will be published on our website as soon as they are available. The current ASC Standards of Care, with amendments where necessary to comply with the new legislation, will form the basis for the interim standards.

Over the course of 2020, standards will be aligned with broader health and disability services standards, supported by service specific guidance. This will enable a robust process to take place and sufficient time for inclusion of a range of voices (including DHBs, providers, the current and future workforce, consumers, and Mâori).

Ongoing engagement 

The Ministry will continue to use this email channel to provide advice about implementation. 

If you have any queries you can contact the Abortion Law Reform Team at alr@health.govt.nz or call the Ministry of Health’s Abortion Information line on 0800 499 500.